SOUTH Africa will head into a ferocious forward battle at Murrayfield on Saturday with a relatively new back five in their pack but with a man known as the “Bone Collector” and another who knows Scotland prop Euan Murray inside out.
Willem Alberts is the player with the jarring moniker. The blindside flanker is 6ft 3in tall and weighs just under 19 stones. In Super Rugby he relishes the collisions and has developed a reputation for knocking players into next week when he manages to line them up for a tackle, and the 28-year-old is a difficult man to halt with ball in hand.
Alongside him is 6ft 4in Western Province No 8 Duane Vermeulen, a skilful ball player, and 6ft 3in openside Francois Louw. Alberts and Louw, who plays alongside Simon Taylor at Bath, only came into the Boks frame two years ago and Vermeulen this year, so they are among a core of this side still pushing to earn respect in Bok rugby.
The second row is a similar story with rising star Eben Etzebeth making his tenth Test appearance alongside Juandre Kruger, who wins his seventh cap, both having made their debuts only this year.
The front row holds more experience with tighthead Jannie du Plessis alongside Adriaan Strauss and Toulouse prop Gurthro Steenkamp but that pack blend is only likely to make the Boks less complacent than the team that pitched up two years ago. Kruger insisted that though there were 13 survivors from that loss among their 23, there was no talk of revenge.
“No, this is the first time I have thought about that,” he said. “It wasn’t part of my era. I don’t think that is in the guys’ thoughts at all.
“That [win in Ireland] was our first away win. It’s important for us to be on top of the world rankings and that game moved us up to second and as a team that brings a lot of motivation and energy. We are all winners, no-one enjoys losing, so that was a massive thing for the team.
“After watching all their [Scotland’s] games in our preparation, and looking closely at their game against New Zealand, they are a good forwards-orientated team and have good backs creating things, and they managed to score tries against the All Blacks.”
He picked out Richie Gray as one to watch and Murray, who he knows from their time at Northampton together, of whom he stated: “He is definitely one of the top scrummagers in the world – world-class – and everyone knows that.”
He agreed that the forward battle, with Scotland improving their mauling, will be a fascinating contest, not least at lock, where the Boks are targeting a Scottish line-out that showed weaknesses last week.