SOUTH Africa coach Heyneke Meyer is hoping to lead his side to a third consecutive victory over Scotland on Sunday – by using Scottish tricks.
The shrewd coach, who made his name as the architect of the Blue Bulls’ Super Rugby success, is desperate to close the gap on top-ranked New Zealand before heading into the 2015 World Cup. He has brought arguably the strongest-ever squad to Scotland on tour and made changes to test a number of fringe performers, but a key to victory, he hopes, might lie with the Scottish coach he has brought into the Bok camp.
Richie Gray, a 43-year-old from Galashiels, has been working with South Africa since the summer and has impressed Meyer to the point that he believes a weakness in contesting the ball after tackles is now a Springbok strength.
“When I look at Scotland, their biggest weapon is that they play with a lot of heart, are a very proud team and they never go away,” he insisted, “but as I’ve said, I think their biggest strength is the breakdown.
“Every time we’ve played against them, we’ve struggled because we couldn’t get enough quick ball. We’ve shown this year, without trying to be arrogant, that we can score great tries if we get quick ball [they average three tries per game under Meyer] but, in every game against Scotland, we struggled to get quick ball because they are very good at contesting on the ground.
“We never contested well on the ground in the past, being South Africans, but, in the recent Rugby Championship, we won the most ball on the ground.
Our body positions have really improved and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re scoring good tries because we’ve always had a good back line and now we’re able to play a more balanced attacking game.
“If you can’t get quick ball, then you can’t go forward, because defences are set up. So he’s been great for us, but we’ve really worked hard in the last six or seven months at the breakdown, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes on Sunday.”
Meyer acknowledged that it could be a tough test for the native Scot in his ranks, with loyalties torn, and insisted that he would not attempt to pull him into the management box at Murrayfield.
“I think this will be a tough week for him because he is a very proud guy and I know he loves his country, but he has had an opportunity with us and he has really done well. He’s a great guy and he has settled in well and the guys respect him.
“That’s professional rugby. The Scottish coach is Australian and that’s the new way of rugby.
“I know it’s a big game for him as well. He’s a proud Scottish guy and that will never go away, but I think I’m crazy enough in the box that I don’t need a crazy Scotsman in there with me, especially when we’re playing against Scotland. So he won’t be in the box. He’ll be in the stand.”
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