Ben Toolis has warned South Africa they can expect another bruising battle in 12 months’ time if they set up a World Cup rematch with Scotland.
The Springboks were made to scrap all the way for victory at Murrayfield on Saturday as Gregor Townsend’s men proved again that they are closing the gap on the world’s best teams.
Scotland exchanged early tries with Rassie Erasmus’ men during a thrilling first half in Edinburgh but let the Boks off the hook after the break when they failed to make the most of their openings to ultimately lose 26-20.
But Edinburgh lock Toolis is taking heart from his side’s display as he looks ahead to Japan 2019. Scotland could square off against South Africa in the quarter-finals if both teams make it out of their pools and Toolis believes his team have already laid down a big marker ahead of that potential clash.
He said: “They only beat us by six points and they’ll be thinking that we’re a tough team to play against. If we do play them at the World Cup, they’ll know it won’t be an easy game.
“We’ll be there to front up and won’t take a step back. It’s always going to be in the back of your mind the last time you played a team, especially 12 months out from a World Cup. But we’ll take a lot of positives from this game and see what we need to fix. That’s how you get better.”
Skipper Greig Laidlaw insists the result is yet another sign Scotland are closing in on their rivals and Toolis agreed. “We’re never happy to lose,” he said. “To lose by only six points, and I think they’re easily a top-three team in the world, means there are a lot of positives and we’ll take that.”
Of the errors that need to be corrected ahead of next weekend’s clash with Argentina, the soft underbelly that allowed South Africa to strike – particularly for the Boks’ second try when Handre Pollard danced through after the Scots coughed up turnover ball inside their own 22 – will be the most pressing for Townsend.
But Toolis says only small repairs are needed to an exciting game plan that has produced results more often than not. “There are minor fixes,” he said. “We can compete with the best in the world. We’ve won nine out of the last 11 games at Murrayfield and pushed some teams close away from home.
“We’re improving each year. We’re scoring a lot more tries than previously. We build this team from defence and we’ve come on leaps and bounds with that. Tonight we did leave some points out there. There were also some minor details and decision-making that we need to fix but defence is the key asset.”