Preview: Scotland v South Africa
Paul Dobson gives us his view of the one-off Test between Scotland and South Africa at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Scotland meet South Africa for the 24th time at Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon - the 18th time the match has been played in Scotland. Of the 23 matches already played Scotland have won five, all at home.
The very first Test South Africa ever played abroad was at Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Scots won 6-0 on an afternoon of miserable weather - a dreigh day as the Scots would have it.
This Sunday could again be a dreigh day - wet and cold with no closed roof to improve matters. The weather may well suit the Scots, not only because they are more used to it but because it would aid their unstructured aggression against structured control.
When the two sides met in warm, dry Nelspruit in June the Scots led for 36 minutes, 17-6 at one stage. The Springboks did not get the lead back till five minutes after Jim Hamilton had been sin-binned, and that was with 24 minutes to play.
For one thing, one way or another, the Scots had ruled the tackle.
They had also coped with the Springbok maul, mostly by pulling it down, once conceding a penalty try for doing so. One seven-pointer was probably worth it but it does not make for good rugby or good tempers.
There have been calls for greater experimentation by both teams, but, heavens, this is a Test match, not a trial match, not match practice of some sort.
The honour of two nations' rugby is at stake.
The crowds that will brave the weather to watch the game will not be paying for an experiment. They will want to see the best of two sides testing their skill and strength in serious conflict.
Certainly they both look close to being the best-available teams. After all Tendai Mtawarira and Eben Etzebeth certainly look as if they need a break.
Of course, Scotland can win the game, but history and recent results look to be against them.
This year they have beaten Italy, Ireland and Japan but lost to France, Wales, England and Samoa.
Only New Zealand have beaten the Springboks this year.
South Africa are ranked second on the IRB rankings, Scotland ninth.
That suggests that nobody would really notice a Springbok victory but a Scottish victory would produce whistle of surprise. It would be an upheaval. But then upheavals happen and they happen to the Springboks when they lapse into overconfidence.
If you look at the two teams it would seem that the best Scottish bet, apart from their aggression at the tackle, would be their line-out where they have two excellent locks in Jim Hamilton and Richie Gray
Players to Watch:
For Scotland: Both wings, slippery Tommy Seymour and strong, confident Sean Lamont.
For South Africa: Bakkies Botha back for the first time since 2011, surprising Willie le Roux and committed Bryan Habana who set off the try of the match against Wales last week. And then there is Willie le Roux, unpredictable Willie le Roux who is quite capable of breaking a defence apart. And one would hope for a much better performance from Jaque Fourie.
Head to Head: The contest amongst the locks - Jim Hamilton against Bakkies Botha, which could be incendiary, Richie Gray against shorter Flip van der Merwe. At the tackle: Alasdair Strokosch against Francois Louw. In Nelspruit this year the penalty count was 15-8 against Scotland and 10 of those 15 penalties were at the tackle. The change of venue could well produce a different penalty count! At halfback: Fourie du Preez and young Patrick Lambie against Greig Laidlaw and youngish Ruaridh Jackson. (Lambie is younger than Jackson but has more international caps.) The performance of the halfbacks usually depends on the performance of the forwards. Goal-kicking is important. Recently Greg Laidlaw has been more reliable than Pat Lambie. The use of the bench is important and here the Springbok bench looks the stronger of the two.
2013: South Africa won 30-17, Nelspruit
2012: South Africa won 21-10, Edinburgh
2010: Scotland won 21-17, Edinburgh
2008: South Africa won 14-10, Edinburgh
2007: South Africa won 27-3, Edinburgh
2006: South Africa won 29-15, Port Elizabeth
2006: South Africa won 36-16, Durban
2004: South Africa won 45-10, Edinburgh
2003: South Africa won 28-19, Johannesburg
2003: South Africa won 29-25, Durban
Prediction: The Springboks to win by 10 points or more.
Scotland: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 David Denton, 7 John Barclay, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 John Beattie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Max Evans.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux: 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain) 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.
Date: Sunday, 17 November 2013
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT; 17.00 SA time)
Expected weather: There is a 20 percent chance of rain with high of 10°C, dropping to 2°C
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
By Paul Dobson
* Bakkies Botha on his Bok return!