BOKS IN BULLISH MOOD for Scotland today

Last week Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer wore the look of a condemned man awaiting his date with the gallows but in the space of a week he is back to his bullish best, predicting that at a win over Scotland today will announce the Boks as firm contenders for the Webb Ellis Cup.

Perhaps it was the relief of pressure brought about by the impressive 46-6 win over a Samoan team that tackled savagely that has resulted in the usually cautious coach talking confidently about his World Cup plan coming together at the right time.

“Senior players that were injured for so long this year have returned and are building towards their best form and I really feel that if we can get past the Scotland game, the way the team is developing is going to make us very hard to beat,” Meyer said. “I think the World Cup is going to start talking about the Boks with a lot of respect because they know that when we play to our strengths and have our best players back, we are extremely dangerous. I would go so far as to say that when we peak, which has always been the plan for the latter games of the Pool phase, we will be almost impossible to beat.

Cocky words indeed for a coach that has lost his captain and vice captain to injury although the loss of Jean de Villiers has given the Boks the form centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel and with Victor Matfield hamstrung, few Bok supporters are complaining about Lood de Jager teaming up with Eben Etzebeth in a second row that is the envy of the rugby world.

Those injuries have also given Meyer the opportunity to hand the captaincy reins to a player that is like an extension of Meyer’s right hand. Meyer has been coaching Fourie du Preez since the 33-year-old was 19 and they are on exactly the same page when it comes to how the Springboks should play.

“We have the right mix and if each guy plays for the guy next to him and we play like South Africans can, then I don’t think anyone can beat us,” said Meyer.

The big carrot for the Boks, many of them still bruised from the Battle of Birmingham, is that most of them will be rewarded with a week off, with a B team sure to start against the USA in Wednesday’s game in London.

Speaking of B teams, the Scots seem to have one eye on their game next week against Samoa and have raised eyebrows by benching some of their regular starters.

But captain Greig Laidlaw disputes the allegation.

“I think that’s a little disrespectful to the players who have been selected,” the scrumhalf said. “We knew coming into this World Cup that it was going to be a 31-man effort and you need your squad. I think people must wait and see our performance rather than pre-judge.”

And miffed coach Vern Cotter added: “It’s a team that’s been selected to compete with South Africa (he has brought in some of his bigger players). This is our third game in 10 days, we’ve taken that into account but these players will be giving 100 percent of themselves. And it’s a team that will be competitive. We said we would need to use everyone and that’s the case now. It’s just time to step up.”

Cotter said that the critics of his selection could say what they liked and denied that he was looking ahead to Samoa, a side the Scots would be more confident of beating (they need to win one of their last two games to secure a quarter-final spot.

“We’re not looking at the Samoa game, that’s next week,” he said. “We’re concentrating on this game and we’re looking to put in a big performance, to have a real crack at these guys. If we get it right, we know where that takes us.

“Everybody saw that the Boks lifted the intensity both in attack and defence against Samoa,” Cotter continued. “They went back to a game that they’ve been playing over the past two years, which is about getting over the advantage line and then piling on pressure. They’ve got big powerful players as we know, and we are looking to counter that.”

Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Subs: 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.

Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Dave Denton, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.

Subs: 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.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Leighton Hodges (Wales)

TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Mike Greenaway in Newcastle

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