Townsend: Scotland defence must be strong to nullify ambitious Springbok game plan
EDINBURGH – Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has warned his side will have to up their game when they face an “ambitious” South Africa at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Scots ran in eight tries during a 54-17 thrashing of Fiji last weekend.
But South Africa, edged out 12-11 by England at Twickenham in their tour opener and fresh from a 29-26 comeback win over France in Paris, are set to provide Scotland with a tougher test.
Townsend has responded to the challenge of the Springboks by making six changes to his side for the upcoming encounter in Edinburgh, which will see both sides continue their preparations for next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Sam Skinner, Scotland’s man-of-the-match against Fiji, has been switched to blindside flanker after making his Test debut at lock.
Jonny Gray and Ben Toolis return to form the second-row partnership, while Hamish Watson returns to the back row.
Vice-captain Stuart McInally starts at hooker, with London Irish prop Gordon Reid at loosehead prop.
The only change in the back division sees the return of try-scoring centre Huw Jones.
“South Africa have made a lot of improvements over the last three or four months, beating the All Blacks in New Zealand and putting in an 80-minute performance to defeat France in Paris, which underlines their quality,” said Townsend after naming his match-day 23.
“Their traditional strength has always been their physicality, and this remains a key point of difference for them,” the former Scotland playmaker added.
“We expect them to be confrontational and powerful in their ball-carrying, their defence and also at set-piece time. It will be a great challenge for our forward pack in particular.”
REACTION Head Coach Gregor Townsend talks about the changes to the Scotland side to face South Africa this Saturday. pic.twitter.com/WyZEirFYmL— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 14, 2018
But Townsend also said that the Springboks had grafted a handling game on to their traditional strengths of a strong forward pack and astute tactical kicking.
“South Africa have always had a smart kicking game with an excellent chase, but what we’ve seen over the past few months is an ambition to move the ball from counter-attack and a push to get their forwards passing the ball more,” the Scotland coach explained.
“Our defence will have to be strong to nullify this ambitious attacking game plan.
“We’re looking forward to playing one of the best teams in the world, and playing once more in front of a sell-out crowd at Murrayfield.”
Wing Tommy Seymour – who scored a hat trick of tries against Fiji – back-row Ryan Wilson and tighthead prop WP Nel are the only three players named to start a third successive Test for Scotland in a November programme that started with a 21-10 defeat by Wales in Cardiff.
Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain), Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson, Sam Skinner, Jonny Gray, Ben Toolis; Willem Nel, Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid.
Bench: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Josh Strauss, Jamie Ritchie, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris.AFP