KO 1.00 at Murrayfield
Saturday 13th November 2021
Live on Amazon Prime Video
Scotland’s home record against the Springboks reads 5 wins and 14 losses since these nations first clashed at Hampden Park in 1906. The scoreline in that inaugural fixture was 6-0 to the home side.
Given the dark blues’ struggles to cross the whitewash against South Africa, a similar result might be Scotland’s best chance of eking out another victory! In this century just 6 Scots have scored tries against the Springboks at Murrayfield:
- 2018 – Peter Horne, Hamish Watson
- 2013 – no tries scored
- 2012 – Henry Pyrgos
- 2010 – no tries scored
- 2008 – Nathan Hines
- 2007 – no tries scored
- 2004 – penalty try
- 2002 – Budge Pountney, Nikki Walker
In fact, across 27 meetings with South Africa at all venues, Scotland have only managed to score more than 2 tries on a single occasion. During their 2003 tour Andy Craig, Chris Paterson and Jason White all crossed but the Scots were edged out 29-25 in Durban.
- 0 tries 6 times
- 1 try 13 times
- 2 tries 7 times
- 3 tries once
South Africa Scouting Report
Slipping by the Springboks
There is a very simple 3-point plan to beat South Africa.
- Don’t concede penalties – penalties mean points through kicks or driving mauls from short-range lineouts.
- Don’t concede scrums – scrums mean penalties. Refer to point 1.
- Don’t concede lineouts – lineouts mean mauls which mean penalties. Refer to point 1.
All Scotland need to add on top of this is a high-octane attacking gameplan which they execute while making absolutely no errors in the teeth of one of the best defences in world rugby – easy!
Last week, South Africa restricted Wales to just 142 metres made with ball in hand (Scotland average 401m per game in the Townsend era). This after keeping the Lions to an average of 204m per game across the three Test series in the summer.
The Welsh also only managed 2 clean breaks (which is the same as the Lions in each of the first two Tests). Undoubtedly Scotland have the personnel to attack from anywhere but they will be facing a stifling defence that cuts off nearly all options and allows no time for good decisions to be made.
It will take one of the games of their careers for Scotland’s leaders in attack (Price, Russell and Hogg) to break down the visitor’s defensive systems. Judicious use of the boot will need to be made in order to play the fancy stuff in the right areas rather than the places the Springboks’ own kicking game will look to manipulate Scotland into working from.
Marseille in Mind
While the result on Saturday will mean everything to the fans, players and coaches and provoke short-term celebrations there will also be a longer term impact on the mentality of the two teams heading in to the 2023 RWC. Less than two years from now Scotland and South Africa will clash at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
Victory on Saturday would be a huge boost for a Scottish side that knows at least one win against the Springboks or Ireland will be required to reach the knockout stages. The visitors will be keen to continue their dominance of this fixture and not allow the Scots to get ideas above their station.
With the World Cup in mind, South Africa’s selections really sum up that they are looking to build the defence of their title largely on the same players that smashed England in the 2019 final – 16 of the South African 23 for Saturday played in that game, with 5 of the others unavailable through injury and just 2 having retired.
That means that the current squad is a hugely experienced, veteran group. Among the matchday 23 at Murrayfield 12 will be aged 30+ and therefore will be 32 and over in 2023. In total 16 of this selection will be 30+ by the start of the RWC. A number of the missing players (including Faf de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Frans Malherbe) will also be in that 30+ bracket.
- Jesse Kriel is an outstanding player and will win his 50th cap on Saturday but he is not a regular on the wing at this level. He did struggle somewhat under the high ball against Wales and coughed up 5 turnovers – as many as the rest of the South African backline combined. He also missed a couple of tackles and conceded a penalty.
- During the most recent Rugby Championship, South Africa made the fewest clean breaks (10 – compared to 46 for New Zealand and 42 for Australia). Scotland will need to be wary of a Springbok backline with more of an attacking leaning though. If the home side cannot contain the visitors pack it will also open up vast spaces for South Africa to exploit.
- The Springboks had statistically the best lineout in TRC with an 88.5% success rate. The Lions’ tour also showed that the likes of Etzebeth and Mostert are a menace on opposition ball in this facet of the game.
This will be the 9th time the two sides have met in Scotland this century. The head to head looks like this from the home side’s perspective:
W L L L W L L L
Most recent meeting in Edinburgh:
Scotland 20 – 26 South Africa
89% – ruck success rate for Scotland. This is the only time that figure has dropped below 90% during the Townsend era (the dark blues’ average for all games in this period is 96.5%). There can be few better illustrations that South Africa bring an unmatched level of intensity to the breakdown. Add in 3 maul turnovers and Scotland lost the ball 11 times alone in these physical confrontations. They cannot afford to be so profligate this time around if the Springboks are to be repelled.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referee 1: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referee 2: Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Brett Conan (Australia)
Despite taking charge of Tier 1 Test matches for more than 5 years and being one of the Southern Hemisphere’s top men, Mr Gardner has never previously refereed a Scotland game.
The last 13 games have seen Scotland win the penalty count 9 times; tie once; and lose it 3 times. They have conceded 4 yellow cards to 9 for their opponents. 2 red cards (v 1 for the opposition) are a couple of fairly big blots on an improved performance in this area.
In the 16 games prior to this run, Gregor Townsend’s men had lost the penalty count 11 times and won it on just 5 occasions. While their own average penalty count has increased from 9 to 10 in the most recent sequence they have been able to win 13 pens from their opponents (compared to just 8 for the earlier run) which suggests far more pressure being put on by the Scots and ties in with the ramping up of the intensity of their defensive work.
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week, after the team announcements.