Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v South Africa: Autumn Nations Series 2021, Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Autumn Nations Series - Scotland v South Africa

Despite it being just three years since South Africa last visited Murrayfield, less than 50% of the players who featured in 2018 return this time round. 13 of the Springbok 23 played in that win over Scotland, with 6 of them starting both fixtures.

Nine Scots return from South Africa’s last visit in the early days of the Townsend era. Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Stuart McInally and Sam Skinner are the only 2018 starters who have been retained.

Tale of the tape

51   Tries   60
   Average weight   91kg
266   Total caps   283
Average age   29.4

922kg   Pack weight   895kg
   Tries   24
195   Total caps  386
Average age   30.6

141   Total caps   342
   Tries   41
26.2   Average age   29.7

4 Scotland changes from last Test (v Australia)

  • 14 – McLean for Graham [=]
  • 12 – Scott for Johnson [-]
  • 2 – McInally for Turner [=]
  • 6/7 – Haining for Watson with Ritchie from 6 to 7 [-]

15 Stuart Hogg (c)
14 Rufus McLean
13 Chris Harris
12 Matt Scott
11 Duhan van der Merwe
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price

1 Pierre Schoeman
2 Stuart McInally
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Sam Skinner
5 Grant Gilchrist
6 Nick Haining
7 Jamie Ritchie
8 Matt Fagerson

16 Ewan Ashman
17 Jamie Bhatti
18 Oli Kebble
19 Jamie Hodgson
20 Hamish Watson
21 George Horne
22 Adam Hastings
23 Blair Kinghorn

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

ADV Scotland
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa

ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV Scotland
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa
ADV South Africa

Willie le Roux 15
Jesse Kriel 14
Lukhanyo Am 13
Damian de Allende 12
Makazole Mapimpi 11
Elton Jantjies 10
Herschel Jantjies 9

Ox Nche 1
Bongi Mbonambi 2
Trevor Nyakane 3
Eben Etzebeth 4
Franco Mostert 5
Kwagga Smith 7
Siya Kolisi (c) 6
Duane Vermeulen 8

Malcolm Marx 16
Steven Kitshoff 17
Vincent Koch 18
Lood de Jager 19
Jasper Wiese 20
Cobus Reinach 21
Handre Pollard 22
Francois Steyn 23


Backs – advantage Scotland

Scotland’s five Lions are all present and correct among the backline. For various reasons they will each feel they have unfinished business against the Springboks. Ali Price and Finn Russell will have the most influence when it comes to imposing the Scottish gameplan. If they can play off any kind of decent ball then expect fireworks!

While there are some differences in the South African backs compared to the lineups that tackled the Lions, what won’t have changed is the intensity they will bring. That will be particularly apparent in their defensive linespeed and kick chase. The visitors also possess turnover threats across their XV – right through to winger, Makazole Mapimpi. Scotland’s protection of the ball will need to be absolutely on point.

Forwards – advantage South Africa

Over the past 4 years if there is one side that could be seen as kryptonite for Gregor Townsend’s Scotland it’s Ireland. The Irish physicality and aggression at the breakdown has set them up for a series of wins and even when the Scots have come close to matching them it hasn’t been enough.

The South African approach in this area is like a supercharged version of Ireland’s forward 8. With both of these nations in Scotland’s RWC pool, a game like this is one of a very small number of remaining opportunities for the Scottish forwards to prove they can go toe to toe with a pack of this quality at ruck and maul – as well as scrum and lineout.

Subs – advantage South Africa

The additions of Hamish Watson and Blair Kinghorn to the bench adds experience to what was a pretty raw group for the Australia game. Countering the South African bomb squad and friends (who collectively have 200 more caps than the Scottish subs) will be a massive challenge. It’s going to take a 23-man performance from the home side to come away with a first win against the Springboks for more than a decade.


 Scotland are looking for their 4th win in the calendar year against a side ranked in the top 3 in the world. Gregor Townsend already has 6 victories against top 3 sides under his belt during his 4½ years in charge – that’s 1 more than the 5 wins managed by Scotland in the other 13½ years since the rankings were introduced in 2003. Scotland victories v top 3 ranked sides:

  • 2021 v Australia (3rd) at Murrayfield
  • 2021 v France (3rd) at Stade de France
  • 2021 v England (2nd) at Twickenham
  • 2018 v England (2nd) at Murrayfield
  • 2017 v Australia (3rd) at Murrayfield
  • 2017 v Australia (3rd) at Allianz Stadium
  • 2012 v Australia (2nd) at Hunter Stadium
  • 2010 v South Africa (2nd) at Murrayfield
  • 2009 v Australia (3rd) at Murrayfield
  • 2008 v Argentina (3rd) at José Amalfitani Stadium
  • 2006 v France (3rd) at Murrayfield

– Scotland are also looking for just their third ever win against reigning world champions. The dark blues defeated England in 2006 and South Africa in 2010 when both sides held the Webb Ellis Cup.

Stuart Hogg will make his 87th start at full back in a Test match (85 for Scotland, 2 for the Lions). That is the most for any male player in international rugby, overtaking Rob Kearney’s 86 (84 for Ireland, 2 for the Lions).

 The spectacular finish by Ewan Ashman against Australia was the 160th try of the Townsend era (3.40 tries per game v 1.98 tries per game for the rest of the professional era). That’s 26.5% of the tries scored in the pro era in just 17.3% of the matches played.

– Francois Steyn will be making his fourth appearance at Murrayfield for South Africa. Way back in 2007 he started at 13 opposite Andy Henderson. In 2008 he replaced Jean de Villiers and faced off versus Nick de Luca. When Scotland last beat the Springboks in 2010, Steyn was at outside centre where he was up against Joe Ansbro.

– This is the first time in 2021 (8th game of the year) that either Stuart McInally or Fraser Brown have started at hooker for Scotland after they dominated the number 2 shirt over the previous 4 years, starting 33 out of 37 games.

– The Scotland 23 have a combined caps tally in excess of 600 for just the second time since the 2019 RWC.

96 Responses

  1. I must admit to being a bit disappointed for Kyle Steyn (and his family). Sentiment plays no part in selection but I believe Steyn has a better all round game than McLean, and offers more off the bench than Kinghorn, especially when you already have 10/15 cover with Hastings.
    Toonie’s reasonings over Pinball are sound – an impact sub when he’s played less than 120 minutes. Nothing to do with size.
    Not sure why the man-to-man comparisons don’t pitch left wing v right wing, and loosehead v tighthead, as that’s who they’ll be up against. Funny that you do it for openside v blindside but not elsewhere.

    1. I usually go for the ‘who would get picked v their opposite number in a composite team’ option when comparing.

      LH and TH will go head to in the scrum but for the rest of the game the LHs duties will be more comparable to his opposite number. In a similar vein, although left wing and right wing will usually defend each other, in terms of considering their attacking opportunities or the type of defensive situations they end up in it’s arguably fairer to compare the players playing in the same position so left v left and right v right.

      As mentioned by others the South African numbering convention is openside at 6 and blindside at 7 so I flipped them to be consistent with Scotland’s positions. If it was Pieter-Steph du Toit wearing 7 it would be a rather more straightforward comparison! But I do think Kolisi and Smith will be splitting the flankers duties in a slightly different way than just Kolisi as out and out openside and Smith as out and out blindside.

      1. Thanks Kevin. Makes sense although I reserve the right to disagree!
        Don’t think it makes a difference in the advantage stakes – if our forwards can match theirs, our backs should have the edge. Until about the hour mark where their experienced bench may well be the difference.

    2. I think Haining may have been brought in as an extra lineout option. Given he is quite tall at 6ft4.

      1. I think another factor is he seems to have fairly soft hands, might be looking for offloads or to quickly link the play perhaps.

  2. I struggle to believe the SA pack is under 900 kg. Did they get the scales from the middle Aisle at Aldi?

    1. I looked at weights both on the SARU website and each player’s own club’s site. Was a mixed bag to say the least! Here is the breakdown (SARU weight then club weight):

      Nche – 105 / 114
      Mbonambi 106 / 108
      Nyakane 117 / 121
      Etzebeth 117 / 122
      Mostert 112 / 106
      Kolisi 106 / 103
      Smith 95 / 91
      Vermeulen 117 / 117

      I took the heavier weight for each player to get to 895kgs total.

      Worth noting that, making some assumptions about the most likely substitutions, South Africa will finish with a 937kgs pack whereas Scotland will finish with 910kgs.

      1. Well there it is. My struggle for belief does not mean it’s not true. They certainly seem to play bigger

    1. We’re way heavier in the forwards as well which is mad.

      I feel they will have the edge on the bench though, what with Frans Steyn likely weighing more than all our backs subs combined

  3. Interesting comment on Hoggy’s number of test caps. I hope he stays fit and has many more in him as he’s some way ahead of the next in line.

    1. Always good to see him lighter too – makes all the difference. Whatever weight he was when he skinned Ireland years back that’s his best weight. And seems like he is there again now. Don’t know why he ever lets himself bulk more during seasons, when so clear at his most electric and not giving anything up in the tackle. Either way good on him for being there now! He deserves a hell of a lot more credit for club and country success than he gets.

      1. I agree. He is an absolute legend and we’ll miss him him when he’s gone. Irreplaceable.

  4. One for the nerds: If we win this weekend and Ireland and England both lose, we will be ranked 4th! Even if England win we’d move up to 5th.

    Far from a pipe dream.

  5. C’mon Scotland, how are we in this match. Very interesting to see the cross kicks and the front row change. Finn’s found a solution.

  6. You can’t lose 3 line outs in a row in the opposition half and expect to win any game let alone against South Africa. They’re not even having to try they just wait for us to make a mistake.

    1. Agreed, too many mistakes. Some of them must have come from SA pressure but some of them were us shooting ourselves in the foot. So dispiriting.

  7. Poor from Scotland. Spewing penalties for no reason. Terrible set piece. Lineout just a mess. Why Hodgson wasn’t introduced around half time beyond me. Z Fagerson poor.McInally well past it. Scott’s first game since ’17…and last Id say. Ref gave Scotland virtually nothing.
    Not good enough …outmuscled by a lighter unit. We all knew what was coming and didn’t even get the very basics right…despite all our media noise pre-match.
    Need to improve alot to have any chance of getting out our world cup group.

  8. Not a great performance. Lots to work on. South Africa being South Africa. Scored as many tries in one game as the B & I lions did over three games however…

  9. Finn Russell, the gift that keeps on giving, to the opposition.
    SA showed that when they are playing their eight man rugby style ( that would get the game stopped ) to the best of their ability, then there’s not a team in the world that can live with them.
    That said,there is no doubt Scotland did make it easy for them in the end.
    But Finn Russell, what is he all about.Can we afford a player who has flat kick’s charged down,knocks on in the tackle,misses tackles and most importantly misses 3 kicks that should be meat and drink to an international place kicker in the hope that he occasionally shows a spark of genius.Personally I think not.
    We have the nucleus of a good team but are way too inaccurate.We need a steady hand on the tiller at stand off for this type of game

      1. Just an opinion, you are allowed to have one you know. Not really sure why yours matters more than mine

  10. difficult team to beat and today we were outmuscled and outfought by the better team. Too many errors (admittedly under pressure at times), too frenetic and not enough precision. The set piece was a mess – both line-outs and scrums.

    SA are good at what they do. We didnt have an answer, sadly

  11. South Africa were clearly the better opponents…

    But how about a rule similar to box kicking where you have 5 seconds to kick the ball,

    Instead of time-off, make it 5 seconds to be set for the line-out or receive a penalty, no huddles, no slow-walking.

  12. Rassie has got into the head of every referee. what was the final penalty count?
    That said Townsend needed to use the bench earlier.

  13. Pretty impressive first half.

    Threatened to come back in second.

    Lineouts, as always, the major weakness.

  14. Utterly depressing performance from the forwards. Dominated in every aspect of forward play from start to finish. Scrums lineouts breakdown a shambles. Backs had no platform and were pretty much on the backfoot the entire game. Only Ritchie came out of that game with any credit. Townsend obviously learnt nothing from his recent trip to SA with the Lions.

    1. What do you mean ? What was predictable ? tell me more. I think what you are saying sounds right , but most of our fans do not know what you mean?

  15. Schoeman played pretty well…Ritchie too… the rest? Not good enough to beat the best teams. Gray and Cummings were badly missed today. We still dont have a great back row unit.
    Watson looks about 60% fit… clearly struggling.
    We won’t seriously challenge for the 6 N playing like that ..never mind the RWC. Forwards look incapable against top packs. They looked good against Australia because that isnt their strength either…but SA, NZ, Ire, Eng..even Wales…we’ll struggle playing like that.

  16. Never seen Zander driven in to the air before, he looked about 5 stone lighter than usual, difficult to scrummage when your feet are lifted off the ground. A sore one all round for the forwards. You cant do much when you are getting destroyed in the scrum, lineout and breakdown.

    Unfortunately the changes in the backs didn’t work either. Scott will be wishing when he was brought back from the wilderness it was against Tonga. He wasnt on the same wavelength as Russell and Johnson is a better fit in that regard. Big lesson for McLean but hopefully he’ll learn from it. With hindsight Steyn was the better option the way the game panned out. So the coaches need to have a look at themselves.

    I fear for the next world cup. We have the best team for a generation but I’m struggling to see how we beat SA and our bogey team Ireland.

    1. Felt sorry for McLean. He was a good selection if the forwards had parity… but they were awful. He didn’t stand a chance to get into this match. Scott showed exactly why he wasn’t selected since ’17… and he shouldn’t be again unless we have no other centre available.

      We looked like we had not prepared to play SA… if nothing else you have to get the basics right.

      We needed that…in some ways… too much media noise about what we were going to do. We have a fair bit to go to really challenge.

      1. Thats what I meant, if we had realised we might struggle at set piece then going backwards Steyn was a better option than McLean but we didnt lose the game through wing selection.

  17. Well that was utterly depressing. Whoever Gregor was watching and planning for in SA it wasn’t the Springboks. Smashed up front. No answer and no evidence of a plan with the score mitigated by some great back play created off scraps.
    At least Finn kept smiling even though he was rotten. Huge reality check

  18. Was that as bad to watch on tv as it was to watch in the ground? Incredible that we were still in this after our second try – and before stuffing up two attacking lineouts on the bounce.

    Handling and passing were very poor today in addition to many other areas of play where we were bested. Lucky for us that we at least defended the SA lineout mauls pretty well, otherwise we’d have shipped 40 odd, not 30.

    That’s a two steps back performance after last week’s win.

  19. Getting over the initial depression now. South Africa are world champions and top 2 in the world since 2019. They played somewhere near their best today and we couldn’t compete with them for 80 minutes. We need to learn some lessons as we only have the players we have.

    Lots of chat from the commentators about not getting our continuity game going. It’s right, we’re not building phases and lots of our scores are coming off first phase strikes or turnover ball. Somethings going wrong with our forwards coaching and I think we’re missing Gray and Cummings more than we realised. Also have to applaud the Boks as their rucking was very efficient and that’s traditionally been one of our strengths.

  20. I think referees have a large input on deciding the winner. This game was reffed totally different to how Poite managed last week. Poite allowed a lot of stuff to go (possibly because he wasn’t sure). Today’s ref made himself very clear when talking to teams , was giving penalties left right and centre, mostly to South Africa. I think he put in the green tinted specs and made his allegiance early. There was an element of a forward pass in both SA tries and he wasn’t interested in checking. When the TMO brought it to his attention we got fobbed off with ‘hands were always going backwards’ , impossible to say otherwise from the one angle he checked. Contrast that with Hoggs ‘ I want to check grounding, foot in touch , forward passing’. Not that it mattered, we weren’t at the races.

  21. With a view to 6 nations and RWC this was unfortunately probably what we needed. Today it was a pummeling, and that’s a good reminder to the forwards of just how hard they need to be to contest for a top 5 spot. We can’t get complacent on easy wins, or hope the magic makers will save the day (even if they did save the score line somewhat). Great teams have great forwards, ours need work. This is a fine squad, and Toony is imo doing a good job overall but they need to focus on set piece, accuracy, and physicality now.

    1. It’s a good reminder you need fluency in midfield too not just a fly half and wingers / FB.

  22. Our last chance was in the second half when we were under the cosh, broke clear then got the penalty and banged it to 5m. We then lost the line out and the following 2 line outs on the bounce and that was it, never got a sniff again after that. Can’t really blame the backs as it’s hard to get any kind of base when you are getting blasted backwards all the time. Russell and Scott just weren’t on the same wavelength at all. It was the same as last week though we never attempted to build phases it was get the ball and ship it wide, if that doesn’t work kick it. I don’t know what the possession stats were but we seemed to barely have the ball. I feel at times the SA defensive line must have been offside the speed they were hitting us. I don’t think we can blame the ref, we certainly didn’t get the rub of the green but he made it pretty obvious how he was going to ref the breakdown and we couldn’t play that way.

  23. Schoeman and VDM our best players today, no doubt spurred on by who they were playing. Russel possibly our worst, but no doubt he was put under huge pressure all game and we had no plan B. He is allowed a poor game occasionally. Both he and Price should have had the measure of the Boks given their experience but it didn’t show.
    Forwards were all meh. Can’t think of anyone who went into contact and made ground and every time we went to ground we failed to clear out leaving the ref to make the call.
    I’m a fan of Cumming and Gray but I don’t think they would have made enough of a difference. Check out the Irish pack in the All Blacks game for a contrast in dynamic.
    Not the game for McLean, perhaps Steyn would have been the better choice.
    Can’t see us progressing from our pool if we face the Boks and Ireland. They possess too much in the forwards

  24. re Russell, might it just be a dip in form? He hasnt been first choice for PSG, so maybe not playing well.

    He is not a reliable goal kicker and that might cost us in six nations

    1. I feel that Finn tries to make everything incredible at times. He needs to do basics like Sexton does and did today, it’s a mark of a great, doing the average well.

    2. Russells kicking from the tee was poor on Saturday but has improved markedly over the past 2 years with club and country. He is in the 80%+ margin that puts him up there with most of the top players.

  25. I think we all had a minor palpatation when we saw the South African bench, and it went pretty much as you’d expect given that – tight for 60 (we’d have been in the lead but for goalkicking), and then they pulled away.

    Our pack was battered. A relatively young, inexperienced and thrown together pack, missing its starting engine room, took a shoeing from the best pack in their world at their absolute peak. But they kept fighting, and they’ll learn from it.

  26. I think the result flattered them slightly , but on balance, that is roughly , where we are. Home crowd, great day for rugby, Boks slightly under strength, we fielded a strong team, the ref was fair and consistent. This was a benchmark and it was not bad.

    Matt Scott, out of the blue, that was an odd one Toony! We now have depth and it was as good a side as we can play, that is where Toony has been taking us, to a place where we have experience in depth. The big names were all there, Hogg , Russell ,Price and a few wonder finds in Schoeman and VDM. If anyone disagrees can they say what is our first team line up actually is ?

    As for next world cup, well that was determined when we failed in the last one. It is going to be tough from now on to go the the quarters, I think we can already see it will be a short month in France.

    1. I think Scotland were understrength…Redpath, a fit Watson, Gray and Cummings would have made a positive difference even if we still lost.
      Playing Scott and Haining was a fail. Neither should be close to 1st choice.
      Unless we source a better quality forward pack …specifically a better 3 & 8 option..and who turn up every match…and before we hit the RWC ..we’ll play 4 matches.. win 2 lose 2.
      There is virtually no chance we’ll beat either SA or Ire without a far more aggressive and dynamic forward pack.

      1. I think playing Scott and Haining was a fail but to say they should be no where near the 1st XV is harsh.

        Haining has played hardly anything and been chucked in the deep-end undercooked, we have seen him play blinders in the six nations (at 8)

        Scott is a quality player but to try that 10-12-13 combo for the first time in a test match against the world champions was madness and a lack of respect what South African can do out wide.(although it sounds like he was the only 12 available) those partnerships need time to gel if you want things to run smoothly. He has been excellent for Leicester and has more to offer i think.

    2. I refuse to accept Scotland were under strength. There were 4 lions in the starting line up, what more do we want, what other side could field more than that ! Hogg did his best to win the game for us, but we needed 15 men and to nail our kicks. The lions lost to them twice . What do we expect? Start to pick a balanced side that can threaten from 9 to 15.

      1. The 23 as a whole was definetly under strength.

        Sutherland over Bhatti, Turner/Brown over Ashman/Mcinally (for me), Berghan over Kebble (maybe)
        Gray/Cummings, Arguably both but certainly 1 would be added to the 23.
        A match-fit Hamish Watson (Clearly powering on through an injury)

        Johnson/Graham left out for experimentation. No Issue with trying out Scott/McLean as they are quality but i’m sure you would agree this was not the best game to expect them to perform to there best in the team systems right away.

        Kinghorn on Bench? Probably not the best option either.. although hindsight is a wonderful thing.

        The same can be said for South Africa however, the World Cup side we will face will most likely be stronger.

        I’m not convinced a full-strength Scotland side would of won today, besides being dominated in the scrum and not being streetwise once again to South Africa or Ireland, we lacked composure in the critical moments which blew our momentum whenever we grabbed it.

      2. 6 lions in the starting line up , 1 on the bench ( maybe 60% of one Hopefully we don’t break Mish playing him next week).
        Salutatory lesson for Zandbags , concentrate on what he is on the pitch to do , scrummage , scrummage and scrummage , and keep working to get better , in test Rugby you are never the finished article.
        A reminder from England and especially Ireland , just as we think we are getting “better” so are they and If we start to believe our “press” and stand still they are in position to leave us behind. WeeAl above is spot on , it hurts this morning but in terms of useful lessons in the cycle this was a good time to take a spanking , plan, operate , review /optimise , and back into plan , so let’s understand where we have to be better and get better.

  27. Lets face it, if we win 3 out of 4 in this series then it’s not to bad , and we were winning upto halftime. Of the changes, Haining was the odd one as he hasn’t played for club much this season and we fell into the trap of bulking up the pack in place of mobility. If Mish wasn’t a 100% then Luke Crosbie / Richardson should have got a run out. 12 slot is Sam Js until Cam Redpath is injury free.

  28. Team for Japan

    Stuart Hogg (C)- Kyle Steyn – Huw Jones – Sam Johnson – Duhan Van Der Merwe – Adam Hastings(VC) – George Horne – Matt Fagerson – Jamie Ritchie(VC) – Josh Bayliss – Jamie Hodgson – Sam Skinner – Oli Kebble – George Turner – Pierre Schoeman

    Darcy Graham – Finn Russell – Ali Price – Dylan Richardson – Scott Cummings – Zander Fagerson – Stuart McInally – Robin Hislop

    Some thoughts:

    Watson is clearly not 100% and should be managed properly until the 6 nations.

    A team which does give respect to Japan (despite there poor showings to date)
    but with a need to find out where certain players are standing with respect to the World-cup.

    Kebble with some proper game-time at Tighthead, i think this game is a suitable level to see if he can be trusted ahead of Berghan going forward or if he needs more time.

    Hodgson has played well when given the opportunity, why not see how he goes? Gilchrist rested after 3 games straight.

    Bayliss likewise shown- up well and is on good form in a poor bath side which says something.

    1. I’d like to see

      Team for Japan

      Stuart Hogg (C)- Rufus McLean- Kyle Steyn – Sam Johnson – Duhan Van Der Merwe – Adam Hastings(VC) – George Horne – Josh Bayliss- Dylan Richardson- Jamie Ritchie(VC) – Jamie Hodgson – Grant Gilchrist – Oli Kebble – George Turner – Pierre Schoeman

      Darcy Graham – Finn Russell – Ali Price – Marshall Sykes – Luke Crosbie- Zander Fagerson or McCallum– Dave Cherry or Ashman– Robin Hislop

      Doubt it’ll be that …just what Id like to see..out of what we have available.

    2. I would add to that .. ZF is not good Internationally and we need to blood others. So, no ZF near the team for Japan

    3. Would this not be a good game to let McLean gain his confidence back? Have Steyn on the bench and play VDM with McLean? Give Jones a run at centre with Johnson

  29. To be honest, I never expected a win but at least we are playing against the best more regularly at the moment which is the only way to improve.
    Slightly disappointed we fell off in the last 15, but there were some positives in the game too.
    – you can’t win a game when your set piece isn’t working. giving away penalties at most scrums is a teams worst nightmare and the lineout was a bit hit and miss.
    – too loose at the wrong times in the backline, probably as a result of a poor platform as much as anything else
    – Haining, Scott, Maclean not the best in their positions and still missing our best second row
    – 2 glorious tries (dubious forward passes aside for the first) and although Russell didn’t have a perfect game, don’t think too many 10’s would have been able to do that against SA. At least we can score tries, just need to work on everything else.
    – the defence in the first 15 minutes was phenomenal. Amazing that we were ahead at half time despite the run of the game being massively against us
    – Ritchie seems to have stepped up this year. Thought the ref’s interpretation went against him (and us at the breakdown in general) but he is looking very strong and would be surprised if he isn’t captain once Hogg goes.
    – Great to see Hogg scoring a couple, he has had a bit of a hard time recently so should give him confidence

    Would like to see a few of the youngsters start next week , but not too many and shouldn’t underestimate Japan

    1. Fraser, not just the first fifteen minutes but for the whole game I thought the defence was very good. Two individual mistakes at the tries, but very seldom did I worry that SA were going to score other than that. That’s been the huge improvement of recent years. We now need the same overhaul of the forwards if we’re going to go up a level.

      1. And if we are nodding at potential forward passes in tries , there seemed to be a positive azimuth on both of the saffers tries , not that it would have helped when we can’t catch our own lineout ball.

  30. If we are to compete with the physicality of teams like SA and Ireland we somehow need to conjure up a significant upgrade at tighthead, at least one second row and most importantly no.8, otherwise we are staring another early exit at the next world cup fully in the face. A more skilful, and incisive centre pairing would also help.

    1. Yep, 3 & 8, these are exactly the positions that small nations struggle to develop because you need position-specific skills in a suitable body shape…the co-occurrence is rare so you need either a massive player pool or a very specific focus on skill-base from a young age.

      We’ll probably never have the former. Fair play to the Fagersons senior and their school/youth club for a fine pair of players but the fact they occupy both key positions suggests that we are lacking systematic development for these positions.

  31. Just like we keep saying against a rush defence …. we will learn from it. Simply, we don’t!!!! Again at 6’s and 7’s against a rush defence. No dinks over top or grubbers. Just flat passes or dangerous X field kick passes. In the 6N Wales and Ireland will be rush defenses. Fed up hearing from Scotland camp that ‘we shot ourselves in the foot (again)’. Do SOMETHING ABOUT IT !!!!!

    1. Rob, its an interesting observation. Russell regularly plays dinks and grubbers for Racing with a very high rate of success. I wonder if at international level he just has slightly less time or if the coaching set up is stopping him. Certainly the Racing backs are looking for it and calling for it whereas for Scotland I think the defensive set up has the centres thinking differently.

  32. Very frustrating performance. Defence, especially maul defence was good in the first 60 so credit to Tandy and the players for that. When we did have the ball there were so many handling errors and accuracy issues. It seemed like ball was being chucked around aimlessly and not finding the mark. Seemed like one of our forwards was playing scrum half at a good amount of rucks so perhaps the Boks had targeted Price and stopped him from getting to the ball.
    I hope people don’t fall into the trap of thinking everything in the garden is rosy again if we beat Japan because there is serious work to do, particularly with the pack and our set piece, if we are to compete with SA and Ire at the RWC. An early exit looks likely based on yesterday while we watch the likes of Wales and Japan sail through to the quarters thanks to World Rugby finalising the seedings way too early.
    Special shout out to the idiot who shouted as Russell went to kick his second penalty. So much for the respecting the kicker.

  33. A frustrating day for Scotland. On the positive side the defence in the first 20 minutes especially was very good and they scored two very nice tries. I think this is the biggest losing margin for a while, but it could/should have been a smaller margin, particularly if Russell had been better at his kicking.

    On the negative side, Scotland were destroyed at the scrum and struggled to put phases together – too many knock ons and some woeful passing in this match and recent matches. I don’t think the addition of Scott and McLean worked and why drop Johnson when he’s been playing so well?

    The three lost line-outs in great positions were a real killer, though in fairness it was a big ask of Scotland’s 5th choice hooker on only his second cap (even if he did play very well for his first cap).

    Overall, a bit of a reality check. I think Scotland are still progressing but are still some way off being able to beat the top teams consistently.

  34. Yesterday’s matches only served tom magnify the (hugely unfair due to early seedings) draw we have at the 2023 World Cup.On the basis of those games SA and Ire look to be just about the two best teams in the world just now so we have just under two years to try to catch up! We will desperately need some radical changes in the pack going on yesterday’s debacle in both srculs and lineout.
    (Oh and I think was posted earlier if we do somehow beat one of those two teams the “reward” will be a QF against either France or the AB’s-crazy! Ah well,France will at least be a lovely venue for our supporters…)

    1. Your saving chance Ardent is that what can happen in one year is twice as likely to happen in two! SA or Ireland may lose form, Argentina or Fiji or Japan may gain form…

      Not to defend world rugby – pool draw should be max one year out…

      1. Let’s not beat around the bush. World Rugby knowingly did Japan a massive favour by finalising the seedings while they were clinging on to a top 8 ranking. Wales were top seeds when the draw was made and look at them now. Absolute madness to do this so early when there were multiple international windows to follow. Make the draw one year out and finalise the seedings after the last international window before the draw.

      2. I’d say seedings should be mid cycle…2 years out…allowing for all nations to prepare their logistics etc. Defo not more than 2 years tho…

    2. We are in a good zone for growth…injury aside our core players will all make RWC 2023, youth scattered throughout, a few old hands. 2027 I think is more our “productive” zone though, so we have 4 years to try to gain a top 4 spot.

      A tough RWC pool won’t help much, but bread and butter is 6N performances and not losing to teams like Japan, Fiji etc.

    3. I just don’t care as much about the RWC, which realistically we are extremely unlikely to win, as winning the 6N. Once that albatross is put to bed we can worry about our World Cup record IMO.

      Winning the 6N or going deeper into RWC relies on us solving the same problems up front. We’re not going to suddenly find 3/4 world class forwards down the back of the sofa so we need to find ways to squeeze better performances out of the players we have.

      Yesterday was disappointing but we don’t need to be despondent, we should be competitive in the 6N.

      1. I’d say its looking unlikely we’ll win the 6N in the foreseeable…England look like they are building a better side…and Ireland are still a forward pack better than us.

      2. Id imagine the result would be ambiguous…A.sometimes born, B.sometimes made, C. sometimes both
        In our case , at the moment, its looking like answer D.

      3. Like this a lot. Feel like there’s a lot of people on here saying we should get a new tighthead / number 8 / whatever, as if we have access to an evil lab.

        A lot of our key forwards are still young and have two years to learn, and build a culture.

    4. After the arguments between SRU and WROrg at last WRC …I think WROrg couldn’t wait to firm up those seedings. They really screwed us…with all that unfolded. We didn’t help ourselves at times and we could have been handled our issues better.. but …they showed a real cup of pettiness coupled with a splash of corruption. Seedings should never have been firmed that early given a its a 4 year span comp.

      1. Are they not always taken at the same point in the cycle? I assumed it was just the usual RWC madness of setting everything out way too early.

        If the football World Cup can select the pools about six months before the tournament then rugby, with fewer teams, should definitely be able to do the same. Taking the seedings at that point in time also make them much more relevant to the tournament. And it would start building excitement ahead of the tournament as well.

      2. Not sure if it was ever certified or not but I do remember reading that this would be the last World Cup where the pool draw is made so far in advance. Can anyone confirm this?

  35. We are going to have to ensure that we go into the RWC with the highest possible ranking e.g. top 6 so that losses to SA and Ire don’t force us out of the top 8 when the seedings are finalised. I suspect that the weighting given to RWC wins is higher than that of other non RWC test matches. We are still paying the price for Dodson’s spat with World Rugby.

  36. Reply to Saint,: RWC is double points but without home and away weighting. Reality is that what really costs you is the “stupid” losses against lower ranked teams, or teams on the rise, especially at home.

    If our pool were played tomorrow we’d lose 0.2 points losing to SA and 1.3 losing to Ireland…but a big uptick if we win. In contrast, losing to Japan this weekend would cost us 1.72 points, with only 0.3 if we win.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion