THE build-up to today’s match at Murrayfield has been dominated by two lock forwards at opposite ends of their careers. For Scotland, the teenager Jonny Gray starts on the bench and will hopefully win the first of many caps.
At the other end of the scale the Springboks’ headlines were hogged by Bakkies Botha, the bogeyman of South African rugby who plays his first Test since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
He comes complete with a health warning, but Botha, along with coach Heyneke Meyer, has been love-bombing Scottish rugby all week, calling it “phenomenal”. It is almost as if the South Africans are trying to lure their hosts into a false sense of security.
“Well, we haven’t been lured,” counters Scotland coach Scott Johnson with a smile on his face. “Look, we understand that they have picked the team and they are coming to play. They don’t want to get caught, blind-sided. It’s an important game for their tour and we accept that and we wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s exactly what we want. It is exactly what this team needs and we’re not going to shy away from that.”
Botha is just one of a number of old heads that Meyer has called upon including players such as Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie who have been plying their trade overseas. Today’s Springbok XV is hugely experienced with exactly 200 more caps in their starting line-up than the Scots can muster.
“It’s good for us,” insists Johnson. “It’s exactly what we want them to do. It shows genuine respect from them and I would have been disappointed any other way. We’re really pleased with it [the Springbok selection] and it’s a good chance for our boys to showcase their wares. It’s good for us.”
“I’m expecting what they have shown in the Championship. They’ll come physical at us, but they’ve got the ability to put sides away, to get a couple more passes in. I think that they are developing into a great rugby nation again. I say that, they’ve always been a great rugby nation, I’m saying a great rugby team again.
“I think they’ve done a wonderful job and there are great guys in this team. I thought that the Championship form was class, I really did. We understand this task. We are under no illusions.”