SCOTLAND captain Kelly Brown has such confidence in openside flanker John Barclay that he was happy to wind up his team-mate yesterday when delivering the surprise news that he would be starting in today’s back row.
Barclay was called into the side in the morning when the medics decided that Alasdair Strokosch would not be fit enough to take the field without fear of a calf strain picked up on Tuesday worsening. Barclay was understandably delighted, after Brown had broken the news.
“Kelly came in and said ‘I have some bad news for you...’ bizarrely!” said the Glasgow flanker. “It was a surprise because I said to ‘Strokes’ [Strokosch] on Tuesday ‘are you going to be alright?’ and he said ‘yeah, I’ll be fine’. But I’ve trained there all week and I’ve been involved long enough now to know what goes on, so it should be easy enough to slot back in. I don’t really worry too much [about games] during the week, but it was funny this morning because when you’re a sub you get that adrenalin rush when you’re told you’re going on, and I got that this morning when I was having breakfast, which was a bit different.”
Barclay has dominated Scotland’s No 7 jersey and amassed 39 caps since making his debut against the All Blacks in 2007, but he lost the jersey to fit-again Ross Rennie last week and was not a happy man. He said: “It was disappointing last week not to be involved, but it was one of those things and I’ve been around long enough to understand that there will be ups and downs in your career and there’s no point in throwing the toys out of the pram just because you’re not getting picked.
“This [late change] is an example of the swings and roundabouts, and when an opportunity presents itself you have to take it. I have had chats with coaches and I know the reasons for non-selection, and what I have to do to improve. Thankfully, for me the opportunity has come pretty quick, and I guess I’ll now just try and go out and show that I should have been picked in the first place.”
Facing South Africa holds no fears as he emerged as man of the match from the 2010 victory at Murrayfield, and remembers his first appearance against them as one that got away in 2008. “I have played them twice and the first time we lost narrowly,” he said. “It was typical of Scotland back then where we played quite well but lost. And two years ago it was a typical Scottish day of weather and we got stuck in, and you take confidence from the fact that they are not unbeatable; you go in with the attitude that they are beatable.
“But it’s a different team to two years ago and every Test match is different, and I hope I’m a different player now as well. The game changes even throughout seasons and one thing I’ve been working on to keep my game moving forward is that [ball-carrying], and to be more of an attacking player as opposed to just working on the floor and being a defensive player.”
On today’s challenge, he added: “They haven’t changed a whole lot in the last year, though it’s maybe a bit different with [Patrick] Lambie at ten. You kind of know what’s coming but there’s always an element of surprise when you play a team like the Springboks.”