Joe Ansbro shows mettle in all the right places on an emotional debut

JOE Ansbro spent most of last week dreaming of listening to The Star-Spangled Banner and how he might impress a few thousand Scotland supporters playing for the 'A' team at Galashiels on Friday night, but after being called up for a dramatic full Test debut on Saturday he admitted he was more than a little delighted at the late switch to Murrayfield.

The 25-year-old was a surprise inclusion in Robinson's XV on Friday, stepping in when Max Evans failed to recover from the shoulder injury he suffered against New Zealand, but the uncapped Northampton player had won the admiration of coaches Andy Robinson, Gregor Townsend and Graham Steadman and duly showed why against South Africa.

Ansbro, whose costs for match tickets had risen well into three figures by kick-off due to the demands of a large family and bunch of eager friends, admitted he was quite emotional when he found himself lining up for the anthems at Murrayfield.

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He said: "It was an emotional moment but I tried to rein it in as best I could. It was obviously the proudest moment of my rugby career but the performance comes after that. It could have been worse. I was quite happy that I didn't (cry].

"This was a completely new experience for me. I get nervous before any game of rugby, but this was something that you dream of, to get thrown in, from thinking that I was going to be playing on Friday night… it's kind of hard to put into words. Just being there, with the great crowd … it's something I'd like to do more of, put it that way."

Ansbro provided a strong presence in defence and in attack, and it says much for his mental strength that he was able to slot in so late and perform at that level after just two starts for Northampton this season, in the face of a dangerous Springboks back line and opposite number, Francois Steyn, and after having to wait almost 15 minutes to get a touch of the ball. "The conditions were a large factor in that," he said. "The guys were saying to me before the game 'get a touch early, get a tackle in early', so it was just about staying focused until that chance came. We started the game quite ruthlessly I thought this week, and I knew what the players were going to do, and that I had to get the ball and run hard, so I was glad I got the chance to do that a couple of times.

"I'm not getting carried away. We played as we trained and I think that was the key, and we're all quite grounded about that. Dan's kicking was phenomenal and I believed that if we kept our defence tight this was a game we could win, and you could see that in the guys and the way they played.

"But, at the same time, they (South Africa] are world champions and you can't underestimate them, or take anything for granted.All we could control was our performance, and our defence was solid, the forwards were working hard and it was in our hands, and luckily we managed to close the game out.

"I'd like to think it was a mainly positive contribution. Because of the conditions there were maybe a lot of times I was in the right place for things that might have occurred, but didn't, but it was just great to fit into the systems and start my international career with a win."

South Africa, meanwhile, will look to put the disappointment behind them by securing victory over England next Saturday.

The Springbok scrum was given a torrid time and hooker Bismarck du Plessis insisted the visitors simply did not play well enough.

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"Every game you lose is frustrating, so definitely it was frustrating for us," added the Sharks hooker. "We didn't use the conditions as well as they did. They put us under pressure with quite clever kicks and keeping us away from their half and when they came into our half they converted it into points where we didn't do that. We didn't use the weather conditions."