Scotland South Africa tour: David Denton determined

DAVID Denton is relishing the prospect of a physical battle when Scotland tour South Africa this month.

The squad flew into Johannesburg yesterday for a four-team tournament, which will see them come up against the host nation, as well as Samoa and Italy.

Interim head coach Scott Johnson has named a number of uncapped players in the group but Denton made it clear Scotland fully intend to come out on top.

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The Edinburgh forward said: “It’s going to be massively physical. We are going to play on hard ground, against big hitters, big people. That suits my game down to a tee so I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure the rest of the guys are as well.

“Johnno said from the get-go that his selections were going to be based on form. It’s about building a team but we are going out there to win. He’s not selecting people who don’t deserve to play just because they are young; he’s selecting the best players. It just so happens that those guys are young. I’m really looking forward to the challenge and so will all the other guys be.”

At the age of 23, Zimbabwe-born Denton is just one of the prospects for a future he believes is bright for the Scots. He said: “There is no doubt about how much potential this team has got. We’ve got a lot of young players, particularly on this tour, that have a wealth of international experience now. There are a few of us at the age of 22, 23, who have played a few games.”

The Scottish Rugby Union announced last week that Vern Cotter is to become Scotland’s next head coach when his contract with Clermont Auvergne ends in June 2014. Denton welcomed the appointment, saying: “He’s done really well with his club team so I’m looking forward to him joining us. It’s always nice to change things up a bit. I think bringing him in is going to be great, along with the senior players that we have.

“Hopefully now we can get that consistency through to the World Cup. It’s been great working with Johnno and he’s still going to have a big involvement with the team, which is great. I think he has been a real benefit to Scottish rugby.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Thistles sevens side finished runners up in the Plate final yesterday at the Marstons GB7s Series at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay.

Thistles began a testing set of ties in Pool 2 by facing Crawshays Welsh in a battle of the Celtic nations. Crawshays made a positive start by establishing a 21-7 interval lead, but a second-half revival and a try by Watsonians’ Liam Steele levelled the scores at 21-21, only for the Welsh side to pull away again and win 38-21.

In their second tie the Thistles fought hard against a strong Marauders side but in the end had to settle for a 21-19 defeat.

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Then against Samurai, captained by Selkirk’s Fraser Harkness, the Thistles were overrun 35-5, the Scots’ third defeat placing them bottom of their group. Top scorer for the Thistles in the pool matches was the Melrose stand-off Andrew Skeen, with 15 points while Steele ran in two tries.

Despite a disappointing set of group results, Scottish Thistles showed strong character in being able to bounce back against Pool 1 third place finishers Irish Exiles in the Plate semi-final, two tries by the Melrose player Richard Mill and three conversions from Skeen helping the Scots to a stylish 38-5 victory and a place in the Plate final.

Then in the fine Plate final Thistles looked to be heading for victory but in the last touch of the ball Olorun Marauders snatched a 28-26 win.

The competition moves to Edinburgh this week.

n Castres clinched their first French title in 20 years when they upset Toulon 19-14 in the Top 14 final at the Stade de France last night.

Toulon, who were aiming for a Heineken Cup-Top 14 double, lacked creativity, and Jonny Wilkinson’s nine points were not enough as South African scrum-half Rory Kockott scored a try and kicked eight points and Remi Tales added two late drop goals for Castres. Delon Armitage scored a consolation try for Toulon.