Need to Know: Scotland v South Africa match preview

KO 5.00 at St. James’ Park, Saturday 3rd October
Live on ITV

With 2 wins and 10 tries under their belts, Scotland move ever closer to home to take on the might of the Springboks.


15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Richie Vernon
12 Matt Scott
11 Tim Visser
10 Duncan Weir
9 Grieg Laidlaw (c)
1 Gordon Reid
2 Fraser Brown
3 WP Nel
4 Jonny Gray
5 Richie Gray
6 Josh Strauss
7 Blair Cowan
8 David Denton
15 Willie le Roux
14 JP Pietersen
13 Jesse Kriel
12 Damian de Allende
11 Bryan Habana
10 Handre Pollard
9 Fourie du Preez (captain)
1 Tendai Mtawarira
2 Bismarck du Plessis
3 Jannie du Plessis
4 Eben Etzebeth
5 Lood de Jager
6 Francois Louw
7 Schalk Burger
8 Duane Vermeulen

16 Ross Ford
17 Alasdair Dickinson
18 Jon Welsh
19 Tim Swinson
20 Ryan Wilson
21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
22 Peter Horne
23 Sean Lamont

16 Adriaan Strauss
17 Trevor Nyakane
18 Frans Malherbe
19 Pieter-Steph du Toit
20 Willem Alberts
21 Ruan Pienaar
22 Pat Lambie
23 Jan Serfontein

Team Talk
Gordon Reid makes his first appearance of the RWC after chewing his way out of Vern Cotter’s basement. He’s joined by newly arrived number 7 Blair Cowan who teams up with David Denton and Josh Strauss in a back row that will spend a disturbing amount of time worrying about their follicles. Richie Vernon will slot in at 13 having previously started at number 8 in the 2011 tournament. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne could be the final member of the squad to take his bow at this year’s tournament and at least has avoided the fate of Graeme Beveridge (2003) and Moray Low (2007) who travelled but didn’t even make a match day squad. Injuries have forced South Africa’s hand but unfortunately for Scotland it has lead them to pretty much the strongest selection they could have made. Newly fit (allegedly) Willem Alberts and fresh off the plane Jan Serfontein could make their tournament debuts from the bench.

Head to Head:
Back 3 – ADV South Africa

  • The edge to SA by the width of a baw hair, mainly due to the presence of Willie le Roux who was a crucial absentee on the opening weekend of the tournament.

Centres – ADV South Africa

  • Not much experience in the middle of the park for either side with Matt Scott having more caps at centre than the other 3 players combined (and he only has 31!)

Half Backs – ADV South Africa

  • Finn Russell is a huge loss for Scotland this weekend and if he had started at 10 I would have called the half back contest in favour of the men in blue.

Front Row – ADV South Africa

  • The first choice Scotland front row may have been good enough to match their Springbok counterparts but Vern Cotter has chosen to spread his resources to the bench so the scrum is as balanced as possible throughout the game.

Second Row – EVEN

  • 4 exceptionally talented young players (average age 23!) who will provide a hell of a battle. Eben Etzebeth may struggle to wind up 2 of the world’s most laid back men in the Gray brothers.

Back Row – ADV South Africa

  • A closer call than it may have been in years gone by but this is still such an area of strength for the Boks. They may be surprised by the physicality of the Scottish trio however.

If it had been the South Africa and Scotland line-ups from their opening fixtures that were facing off tomorrow I would have called it ADV Scotland in all 3 backline units, ADV South Africa in the front row, ADV Scotland in the second row and ADV South Africa in the back row. The Springbok side is much improved whereas the Scots are well below full strength.

Numbers you need to know
Number of players who will have started a RWC match for Scotland in the forwards and in the backs – Richie be thy name.

Number of caps in the Scotland starting line-up. South Africa have more than twice as many with their XV having amassed 716 Test matches.

Number of players over 30 in the Scottish starting XV. Somebody report Big Vern Cotter to Help the Aged.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will be become the 148th player to represent Scotland at a RWC if he makes it off the bench. Barring any more injury call ups we’ll need to wait for Japan 2019 to see the 150th player take to the field.

The number of Scottish players with more RWC appearances than Ross Ford once he comes off the bench on Saturday. (Pop quiz – try and name them!)

Previous results
The sides have met 25 times with Scotland victorious on just 5 occasions, with their last win coming 5 years ago. There has been one previous encounter between the 2 teams at a World Cup:

        • 1999 Scotland 29-46 South Africa (Murrayfield)

Before the Springboks ran away with it late on there was a moment when John Leslie came within inches of the try that would have put Scotland in the lead. Not only did he just miss out on the score he also injured himself in the process and Scotland’s player of the season was out of the tournament before their first game was even complete. We’ve never had much luck in the big competitions…

Most recent meeting:

        • South Africa 55-6 Scotland (Port Elizabeth)

Less said about this one the better. Only 6 players remain from the Scottish 23 that day which included final caps for Moray Low and Nick de Luca and also one cap wonders Grayson Hart and Tyrone Holmes.

Scotland have not one on any of the 3 previous occasions that Nigel Owens has refereed them in a full cap international. The Scots contingent from Pro 12 sides Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh have been more regular recipients of Mr. Owens’ repartee in recent years. One stat noticeable from the Glasgow matches he has refereed – he awarded 20% less penalties than average and brandished his cards less then half as much as the average Pro 12 referee. Both sides will be looking to take advantage of the ref’s desire to keep the game flowing. For more stats on Mr. Owens visit Great Call Rugby who have some excellent analysis on the officials at the current tournament.

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