KO 5.20 at Murrayfield
Saturday 17th November
Live on BBC2
South Africa are back in Edinburgh for the first time since 2013. In fact more than 3 years have elapsed since these two sides met at any venue – the longest break in this fixture since the Springboks were readmitted to the world stage back in 1994.
This will be the 29th time Scotland have tested themselves against one of the four Rugby Championship teams at Murrayfield since the year 2000. South Africa could potentially become the only country from that group that the dark blues have managed three home wins against this century:
Argentina – P5 W2 L3
Australia- P8 W2 L6
New Zealand- P8 W0 L8
South Africa- P7 W2 L5
South Africa Scouting Report
Let the back 3 fly
This is going to be a brutally physical contest and Scotland will find space at a premium. One area where the Springboks have been more vulnerable defensively recently has been out wide. The English and French back threes both managed to make 7 clean breaks against South Africa (incidentally the same number the visitors managed across both of those fixtures added together).
With the attacking talent at their disposal at wing and fullback Scotland really need to be ready to take advantage of any slackness in defence – and make sure any chances created are converted into points. Teddy Thomas’ coruscating clean break last Saturday for France split the South African defence but foundered for want of a final pass. Scotland were guilty of this against Fiji but got away with it – versus the Springboks there are unlikely to be many second chances.
Maybe it’s the cold weather. Or maybe it’s been the intensity of the Northern Hemisphere defences. Maybe it’s just because South Africa are still a team in transition under Rassie Erasmus. Whatever the explanation the visitors have been coughing up the ball a lot. They averaged 20 turnovers per game against England and France, killing their attacking momentum and bailing out their opponents at crucial moments.
Bearing this in mind, from a defensive standpoint there must be value for Scotland in strongly targeting disrupting the ball to pressure the Springboks. With an eye on attack, it means opportunities to have a crack at an unstructured defence rather than the wall of monsters South Africa normally present. Turnover ball should be catnip to whichever one of the raving felines it is that gets the nod for Scotland at 10.
Will de Allende dominate – or disappear?
Damian de Allende was in outstanding form at 12 against England earlier this month. The 16½ stone centre hammered his way through the English defence time and time again, finishing with 15 carries for 63 metres gained; 2 of South Africa’s 4 clean breaks; as well as breaking 6 tackles. With France alerted to his strong form though he was shut down in the Stade de France with just 3 carries for 5m and no breaks or tackle busts to his name.
The Scottish defence hasn’t coped too well with strong carrying from powerful centres so far this Autumn. Gregor Townsend will be hoping his troops have learned some hard lessons and the structures in place, supported by individuals making their tackles, are enough to contain the heavyweights in the South African midfield.
This will be South Africa’s 11th visit to Murrayfield during the professional era. Going by the previous sequence of results Scotland are due to lose but are then guaranteed to win the next time the Springboks visit Edinburgh – hooray:
L L L W L L L W L L
On their last trip to Edinburgh, back in 2013, South Africa blanked Scotland 28-0 in a game which saw 19-year old Jonny Gray make his Test debut.
The most recent meeting between the two countries was in Newcastle during the Rugby World Cup which didn’t go too well either:
South Africa 36 – 14 Scotland
931kg – weight of the Scottish pack in that match. With Strauss and Denton in the back row and a very large tight 5, this must have been one of the heaviest packs ever selected for Scotland. Despite this, they were still outmuscled around the park by a hugely physical group of Springbok forwards. The home side might need to play to their own strengths rather than taking on South Africa at their game on Saturday.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant 1: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant 2: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
It’s time for Scotland’s near-annual appointment with M. Poite. Until a famous win in the 6 Nations match against Ireland last year, it’s not been a relationship that has really favoured the Scots – with losses on the scoreboard and also in the number of penalties the order of the day. He’s one of the most experienced officials around though and has earned the place he has held on World Rugby’s elite panel of referees for the last 8 years with some suitably elite performances. Hopefully (unlike James Haskell) the Scottish players remember he is “…a referee, not a coach”!
South Africa have only ‘lost’ the penalty count three times in their last 11 matches and conceded a remarkably low 5 in their recent encounter with England at Twickenham. It’s likely they will be very disciplined and not give M. Poite many opportunities to ping them. Scotland must be similarly circumspect if they don’t want to face the reliable boot of Handre Pollard kicking for goal or the Springbok maul coming at them from a 5 metre lineout…
Scotland’s previous games with M. Poite in charge:
- 2011 – lost to England (A)
Penalties: 21 (For 8 – 13 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (John Barclay)
- 2012 – lost to Wales (A)
Penalties: 23 (For 13 – 10 Against)
Cards: Scotland 2 YCs (Nick de Luca, Rory Lamont), Wales 1 YC
- 2013 – lost to South Africa (A)
Penalties: 23 (For 7 – 16 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Jim Hamilton)
- 2014 – lost to New Zealand (H)
Penalties: 17 (For 7 – 10 Against)
- 2015 – lost to England (A)
Penalties: 18 (For 8 – 10 Against)
- 2015 – beat Italy (H)
Penalties: 26 (For 14 – 12 Against)
Cards: Italy 2 YCs
- 2017 – beat Ireland (H)
Penalties: 16 (For 7 – 9 Against)