SCOTT Johnson has told his Scotland side they should not fear South Africa when the world’s number two ranked side march out at Murrayfield.
The Dark Blues’ interim head coach is still trying to develop a squad capable of competing consistently on the international stage.
There were encouraging signs during the RBS 6 Nations where his group finished third, but their weakness were still evident during the summer when they suffered a pride-damaging defeat to Samoa during the tour of South Africa before handing back an 11-point lead to their Springbok hosts in a 30-17 loss.
But even with that result still fresh in the memory, Johnson does not believe his men should be worried about facing Heyneke Meyer’s two-time world champions on Sunday.
“We should be respectful of South Africa but fearing them is different,” Johnson said.
“Rugby is a combative sport and we want people to be on edge. They are a pretty good side and we respect that.
“But fear is the wrong word. On edge is better.”
Johnson has made six changes to the team that beat Japan 42-17 in last weekend’s opening Autumn international, and the Australian has included four players with just 15 caps or less in his starting XV - full-back Sean Maitland, wing Tommy Seymour, centre Duncan Taylor and number eight David Denton.
While the Scots can pull together 467 appearances at international level, they face a vastly-experienced side boasting a clean 200 more caps.
‘About the performance’
But Johnson insists it is only by blooding fresh faces in these type of matches that Scotland will eventually be able to take on the Southern Hemisphere giants.
He said: “We are on a different phase to the likes of the Springboks. For us it is a good chance to see guys. We have still got a lot of players sitting on the bench injured, so it gives others an opportunity.
“But part of the phase we are on is about finding out what some of those other guys are about.
“There is no doubt that in certain positions we are a lot deeper than we were when I took over. We are still not where we need to be though. The summer tour helped us with 10 new caps and there was another five or six in the Six Nations before that.
“That is what this country needs - a greater pool to pick from so that is why we are doing what we are doing.
“As for Sunday, it is all about the performance for me. The guys know I want them to compete - we are not running away from that - but we beat Italy in the summer and I thought the performance was terrible.
“To get to where we want to go, you have to be clear on what you want to achieve and that is why the result is less of a concern for me at this stage.”
Sunday’s opponents have recalled lock Bakkies Botha to their side after a two-year hiatus and Johnson has already stressed to his men that South Africa’s ball carriers must be felled at the earliest opportunity.
He said: “Putting big men to the ground early is the area we really need to be sharp at. If they get a roll on, that’s their game and we need to stop that.
“From our point of view, we certainly have the will to do better at the breakdown than we have. Some technical stuff still has to be improved but we are moving in the right direction.”
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