Scotland v South Africa live: score and latest updates from the 2021 fall internationals.
Live coverage of today’s fall international game between Scotland and South Africa in Murrayfield.
The good thing about South Africa, says Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, is that opponents have no doubts about what to expect. The men in Green and Gold will play with tireless physique and frankness.
They will try to take advantage of set pieces to dominate the territory and apply maximum pressure to keep the score going. It’s not, says Townsend, rocket science.
Nor is it the right thing to do to beat them, as the Wallabies and All Blacks did twice during the Rugby Championship.
When Australia beat them in back-to-back matches this summer, they did so because instead of running from deep as South Africa hoped, rival Quade Cooper kicked corners and in doing so stopped South Africa from dominating territory.
The parity at the front and both possession and territory were the basis of those victories.
Townsend and his fellow coaches haven’t lost their lesson. If South Africa, which kicks more than any other team in world rugby, but also has the highest percentage of successful kicking chases, sets foot on the ball, Scotland will respond in kind.
A prerequisite for kicking is parity up front, and Scotland has given themselves a fighting chance by presenting a pack that is slightly heavier and taller than their Springbok opponents, and an average of two years younger.
But while South Africa are no bigger men, the Springbok culture of extreme physicality and confrontation is their main weapon, and nowhere is that more true than in a monstrously powerful bank.
Given the virtual certainty that South Africa will deliver a long, high, and often kick to Scotland’s three, the decision to go for the young 5-foot-9 Rufus McLean, who was notably hesitant under the high ball on his debut.
Against Tonga, it may seem reckless, but Townsend is convinced that the assets brought in by the speedy 21-year-old sail more than outweigh any inconvenience. Size, Townsend says, isn’t everything.
“The best winger in the world in the last two years is Cheslin Kolbe, and he must be one of the smallest players in world rugby,” he said. “You are looking for the players who will make the biggest difference in their position.”
Statistics, as Townsend knows, can be misleading. The Scots lead the two nations in most of the numbers that matter this year, such as line breaks (6.7 to 2.5), defenders defeated (28.1 to 14.1), downloads (7.3 to 2.9), missed tackles (11.3 to 18.7), although the Springboks dominate in won turnovers (5.6 vs Scotland’s 3.6).
The most pertinent statistic, however, is that Scotland has not beaten South Africa for 11 years, a period in which they have beaten Scotland six times in a row.
If a Scottish team that over the past two years has shown great character by breaking long losing streaks in Wales, England and France have the self-confidence to overcome South Africa’s physical dominance and scoreboard ownership will be a crucial barometer of your progress.