Johannesburg - While sitting and sipping on a cup of coffee this week at a local bakery, due to the loadshedding playing havoc with South Africa’s working schedule, I could not help but overhear a discussion regarding Scotland v South Africa.
The elderly patrons, enjoying a pleasant Highveld mid-morning, expressed trepidation that the assignment the Boks will face this weekend will be a tough one.
“Did you see what they did to Australia?” one gentleman countered to give weight to his concern, referring to the Scots’ most recent 15-13 victory over the Aussies.
“Yes,” said the other, “they are a very good team.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This Scottish team is a dangerous proposition to overcome. In this year’s Six Nations they lost only two matches, suffering narrow defeats to eventual champions Wales (25-24) and later Ireland (27-24).
They beat favourites England 11-6 and in a postponed encounter, overcame an exciting and everdeveloping France 27-23.
In their victory over Australia, they dominated in most aspects of the Test, despite what the scoreline might say. They made more metres, beat more defenders, had more clean breaks, gainline carries, passes, offloads and won more rucks. They are a well-drilled, confident team that understand their systems and each individual fulfilling their role.
And yet, with respect to the Scots – call it arrogance or over-confidence, if you wish, but it supersedes such qualities – I cannot see this Bok team losing to them.
Of all the Bok teams that I have ever had the privilege (or misfortune) to watch, this Bok team is my favourite.
I absolutely adore them – not just for what they have achieved on the field, but the symbol they have become for the nation off the field; and it is for this reason that I will never give up on them, or admit they are the underdogs.
They are a team that we can all look upon and admire, and while we struggle with a barrage of trials and tribulations as a nation, they give power to the powerless.
The character this squad has shown this year – trapped in mentally taxing isolation for months to overcome the British & Irish Lions and then New Zealand in that last match of the Rugby Championship shows an admirable fortitude.
Sure, there was a moment of frailty in that tournament, but the manner in which captain Siya Kolisi and his men collected their thoughts, shored up their minds and prepared their bodies through that adversity, and after back-to-back losses to Australia, shows the mettle of this team.
Scotland will be niggly, they will be difficult to overcome, and they will push the Boks to the limit at home, but I believe they will ultimately come unstuck against us. We have not lost to Scotland since 2010, and irrespective of the brilliantly talented Hamish Watson, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg – to name but a handful – are, I cannot fathom that we will lose tomorrow at Murrayfiled.
Stranger things have happened though, and even if we do lose, this team has the mentality, the physicality, the honesty to bounce back. I love them not because they win all the time, but rather that when they do lose, they dust themselves off and stand tall once more unbent.
In that regard, we can all learn a lesson from them. I certainly have.