Scotland have nothing to fear

Sat, 16 Nov 2013 15:32
Scott-johnson-h_s Scott-johnson-posts
We should be respectful of South Africa but fearing them is different

Scotland's interim head coach Scott Johnson has urged his side to play without fear when they tackle South Africa at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Scotland lost 30-17 to the Springboks on their tour of South Africa in June, having let an 11-point lead slip, but Johnson says they have no reason to feel intimidated by Heyneke Meyer's side.

"We should be respectful of South Africa but fearing them is different," Johnson said on Saturday.

"Rugby is a combative sport and we want people to be on edge. They are a pretty good side and we respect that. But fear is the wrong word. On edge is better."

Scotland began their end-of-year campaign with a 42-17 defeat of Japan but the side that faces South Africa - 24-15 victors over Wales last weekend - will feature six changes.

South Africa's line-up has far more experience at international level but Johnson says there is no point denying inexperienced players an opportunity to test themselves against the world's top sides.

"We are on a different phase to the likes of the Springboks," he told Britain's Press Association.

"For us it is a good chance to see guys. We have still got a lot of players sitting on the bench injured, so it gives others an opportunity.

"But part of the phase we are on is about finding out what some of those other guys are about."

He added: "There is no doubt that in certain positions we are a lot deeper than we were when I took over. We are still not where we need to be, though.

"The summer tour helped us with 10 new caps and there was another five or six in the Six Nations before that.

"That is what this country needs - a greater pool to pick from, so that is why we are doing what we are doing."

With Bakkies Botha back in the Springboks XV after a two-year absence, Johnson wants his side to focus on taking down South Africa's ball carriers as swiftly as possible.

"Putting big men to the ground early is the area we really need to be sharp at. If they get a roll on, that's their game and we need to stop that," said the Australian.

"From our point of view, we certainly have the will to do better at the breakdown than we have. Some technical stuff still has to be improved but we are moving in the right direction."