DCSIMG

Sean Lamont and his fellow backs have plans up their sleeves for South Africa

Scotland winger Sean Lamont at Murrayfield. Picture: SNS

Scotland winger Sean Lamont at Murrayfield. Picture: SNS

  • by BILL LOTHIAN
 

SEAN Lamont stands apart among the starting backs and he knows there are parallels to be drawn in terms of how Scotland shook out rust that had just been exposed in defeat by New Zealand to stun a South Africa team who were then reigning world champions.

Winger Lamont, who will be making his 69th Test appearance, emphasises a contrasting threat and is also prepared for a lot of the action to take place under high, hanging kicks.

“The way South Africa play, they kick a lot more rather than doing a lot of stuff on counter attack.

“I know as a back three player the ball that when the ball is dropping on you and you are stuck under it and you can’t get any momentum. It is a tough thing to defend if done well.

“It is a good ploy and something we need to use a bit more ourselves. We know South Africa like to kick a lot and it is a competitive weapon.

“At Murrayfield it is easy to forget the in-goal area (behind the posts) is not far off measuring 22 metres in depth. A lot of practice has gone into the kick chase and aerial work.

“If you put a 50-50 ball up into the in-goal area there is a good chance you will score a try and that is something we have been working on with (kicking coach) Duncan Hodge.

“But whether or not you win the ball back from the kick, the challenge puts pressure on, as when I went up with (Israel) Dagg last week and he broke himself.”

That collision marked the end of Dagg’s involvement and Lamont added: “We also want to work as a back three a bit more in running out of defence because Stuart Hogg has plenty of pace when linking up on the counter.

“A few times against New Zealand we could have countered more effectively and it is something we want to be known for as the units are there.”

Lamont was heavily involved in a couple of innovative kick-off ploys when he was fingertips away from latching on to the ball and making deep inroads.

While acknowledging that the ideal is for teams to only kick-off once in a match, Lamont, keen to exploit his jumping ability out wide.

He said: “Regaining the ball at restarts is something we always work on because we know there are a lot of rewards to be had in that area.

“Accurate re-starts are an easy way to get deep into opponents half, which is why Tim Visser and I were swapping wings at times last week.

“Of course, it is always different in a live game when the opposition are trying to get the ball as well but done well it can be effective.”

While crediting South Africa with being more direct than New Zealand Lamont knows they will be just as effective if tackles are.

“You know where they are coming and if you make mistakes you will be punished,” he said. “We are never shy of putting our heads in and make the hit and two years ago the rugby wasn’t pretty but it was what we needed to get a win over one of the Southern Hemisphere’s ‘big three’, which is always satisfying.

“It shows we can do it. Against New Zealand we scored three tries in defeat so we take some positives, but if we had shut them down it would have been closer without saying we’d have won.

“They were just so clinical and in a slightly different way South Africa will be the same.”

Returning to the match day squad for the first time since last year’s World Cup clash with Argentina is 37 cap hooker Dougie Hall, who came off the bench in 2010 to help seal the win over South Africa.

“So far as career highlights are concerne,d that win is right up there, certainly alongside beating France and England in the 2006 Six Nations campaign.

“South Africa are a great side and the physicality is something you have to relish about rugby. It is a great opportunity to show how far we have come.

“We obviously value our strong scrum and I’m sure they do too. South Africa have never been exactly shy in that department.”

Hall also face the Springboks twice on their home territory when Scotland toured in 2006.

He added: “The scrum is a really important part of the game for shifting momentum

“In fact, the set piece and contact area are the two biggest aspects for dictating whether you win or lose.

“It is no coincidence when you look at best clubs in Europe they are the teams that are best at the contact area. Back that up with a good set piece and you become very, very hard to beat,.

“Any side that says they are not interested in scrums and line-outs are probably lying.”

As for bouncing back from defeat as Scotland did two years ago when South Africa called, Hall said: “You have always got to put the great wins and bad losses behind you straight away

“Our job is to move on quickly and we definitely need the win.”

It is arguably the biggest match of coach Andy Robinson’s tenure – undoubtedly at Murrayfield – as victory could be essential if Scotland are to leapfrog Ireland and claim a second tier seeding at the next World Cup.

Wales’ are also required to defeat Samoa tonight, but centre Nick De Luca plays down any suggestion of additional pressure.

De Luca said: “We are just going out to win this game and any knock on effect is obviously a bonus.

“The top eight teams at the 2015 World Cup won’t be the same top eight as just now.”

Likewise De Luca believes comparisons with when South Africa were repelled last time are dubious at best.

“Two years ago there were different squad and different players. It’s not talked about too much.”

What the Edinburgh centre prefers to dwell on are the lessons that can be taken from last week.

“What we take from the New Zealand match is that when we got it right and did what we were trained to do we didn’t just put the best in the world under pressure but were in the game for half an hour, fell out, then got back in again.

“South Africa are a completely different side who play a different brand of rugby but what let us down against New Zealand was our tackling in certain area and that will be important whatever the opposition.

“We were putting ourselves under pressure and it wasn’t necessarily New Zealand doing it to us. We weren’t finishing off moves as well as we would have liked.

“There’s been a lot of talk about scoring three tries against New Zealand, but four chances left out on the pitch against us.

“Putting that right will be the marker for us.

“We were always going to be rusty, though, with new defensive systems going to take time to bed in.

“However, when we got it right there was a lot to be excited about regarding where we are going in the future.”

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is preparing for close quarter collisions.

“Scotland are superb at the breakdown. Against New Zealand they were very, very physical. We have the highest respect for Scotland. I really believe they played well against New Zealand.”

However, the coach believes conditions could play a part.

“Our guys need to get used to playing in the cold. We need to get them mentally tougher.”

So indications are this could be a cat-and-mouse exercise with Sean Lamont striking the appropriate note when he remarked: “Last time out against South Africa it maybe wasn’t the prettiest rugby but it was effective.”

Hall elaborates, saying: “It is about making the right calls at the right time. We set high standards for ourselves and maybe that wasnt’ lived up to last week.

“That has been made known by the coaches.”

A backlash against the ‘Boks?

If ever it was required it is now as tomorrow could hold the key to whether Scotland bounce back to become at least a quarter finalist at the next World Cup or slip back into a pond of mediocrity.

It is hard to overstate just how essential it is for all sorts of reasons, including financial, that an extended run takes place in the 2015 tournament being held next door in England.

 

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