Scotland vs South Africa preview

South Africa’s Springboks will try to put a troubled week behind them when they face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.


No sooner had the world champions arrived in Scotland than they were having to jettison wing Bjorn Basson and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle from their squad after the pair were suspended having tested positive for a banned stimulant.


Basson, who started in the 29-25 win over Wales last weekend, was due to have headed home anyway with an ankle injury.


And a worse loss followed when fellow wing Bryan Habana, one of the Springboks’ star men, was ruled out of the remainder of the tour after breaking a hand in training in Edinburgh on Tuesday.


But South Africa, after a woeful Tri-Nations, have demonstrated admirable resilience in defeating Ireland (23-21) and Wales (29-25) earlier this month to be halfway to a first ‘grand slam’ over the ‘Home Nations’ in 50 years.


And centre Jean de Villiers is excited by the prospect of Lwazi Mvovo, effectively Habana’s replacement, making his Test debut this weekend.


“Obviously it’s always disappointing to lose a player with the talent and experience of Bryan but on the other hand the opportunity has opened up for Lwazi to make his debut and we’re all really excited for him,” said experienced midfielder de Villiers.


“He has had an outstanding Currie Cup season with the Sharks and deserves his chance to show us what he can do in the Springbok jersey.”


South Africa will be firm favourites to defeat a Scotland side thrashed 49-3 by New Zealand last week at Murrayfield in what was the home team’s November international opener.


But Springboks forwards coach Gary Gold insisted: “They (Scotland) will be hurting after Saturday’s defeat and they’ll want to erase that memory as quickly as possible.


“We’re not reading too much into it – as (New Zealand head coach) Graham Henry said himself, the All Blacks hit a real purple patch and not many teams are able to live with them in that mood.


“It was Scotland’s first match together after five months and they’ll be much better for it.


“They had a series win in Argentina this year and beat Australia at Murrayfield a year ago so they pose a major threat and it would be a big mistake to use last Saturday’s result as any serious form guide.”


Meanwhile Scotland coach Andy Robinson was equally certain the Springboks would not be distracted by the drugs controversy, especially under the captaincy of lock Victor Matfield, leading the side this tour in the absence of the injured John Smit.


“Of course it can be difficult to lose people from a squad and you feel for those guys,” said Robinson.


“But I believe their team are very united under a very special player in Victor Matfield,” the former England back-row and coach added.


“Matfield is a great player, a quality person and a fantastic leader on the rugby pitch.


“He has also captained the Blue Bulls for many years and the togetherness of the squad has been underlined by the way they beat Ireland and Wales.


“They managed to win each match in different ways. Against Ireland, they came under late and sustained pressure – then against Wales they produced a superb comeback when it mattered.


“Both results showed how good they can be and I expect they will try to run over us – as well as through us.


“South Africa get the best out of the personnel they have. They have a very powerful pack and Francois Hougaard at scrum-half has pace and will ask a lot of questions.


“Morne Steyn can be a world beater and a very, very good kicker while Jean de Villiers is straight up and down but good at it.


“Ryan Kankowski at No 8 is a top class ball carrier who gets himself in the game repeatedly and Juan Smith is one of the best backrowers in the world.


“We’ve got to match what they throw at us and be able to play our game – play the way we

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