South Africa v Scotland: Scots’ chance to shine

Chris Fusaro knows the challenge facing South Africa will be more intense than Argentina. Picture: Getty
Chris Fusaro knows the challenge facing South Africa will be more intense than Argentina. Picture: Getty
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YOUR conventional trial match means picking what you think are your 15 best players and pitting them against what you think are your second best.

So what do you call it when you pick a team you know is definitely not your best and send it out against another country that is also unable to field its top side?

It is a trial of a sort. Every one of those players on both sides sees his opening. Fourth choices can push themselves to third; third to second; second to first; and, in most cases, the players ahead are not here in South Africa to defend their status.

What it is not is a match that means much in the overall pattern of international rugby. There are too many anomalies for that.

If you want to work out whether South Africa can win the Rugby Championshp and end New Zealand’s winning run, by all means look at their two matches against Wales, but don’t expect a single unit on duty today to see service against the All Blacks or Wallabies. You will see some signs of how good Vern Cotter is at pulling a team together quickly, but there could be up to 12 changes when he names his next team in November.

So, just like a trial, it is the individuals who matter. The questions are there to be answered: is Adam Ashe the real deal now that he is through his injury problems; can Chris Fusaro exploit his speed to outplay bigger, heavier opponents; is Henry Pyrgos the scrum half who can really get the backs space to run in? And more. This is a team that is short of answers, not questions.

For Fusaro, though, the chance to prove himself in the final game of the season in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, one of the most iconic on the South African circuit, is irresistible and the perfect end to a perfect season.

“It is a great game to finish off the season, a pinnacle. The stadium is fantastic and the South African fans are fantastic. Hopefully there will be some travelling Scottish fans as well and it will top off a great season,” he said.

“I have some of my best memories of my rugby career in the last year, including Glasgow getting to the RaboDirect Pro12 final.

“That was fantastic and to go from that to a Scotland tour is a great feeling and you want to keep the momentum going. It is a great feeling but you have to take stock sometimes and remember where you have come and how privileged you are, but it is a great way to finish.

“They are going to try to impose themselves physically on us so the challenge for us is to nullify that. We know it will be tough but we are looking forward to it. As far as me in the back row, I have always been on the smaller side whoever I am playing against, so hopefully I can do the same job I always do.” The numbers stack up badly for Scotland, who have never won a Test in South Africa. Though both sides have one uncapped player in their starting line-up, the Springboks win the experience battle hands down, thanks to Victor Matfield, whose 113 caps dwarf the seven earned by Grant Gilchrist, his opponent as both lock and captain. “It is a big opportunity for these guys,” Matfield said.

“The nice thing is that we have a big squad and they have been in the system for four weeks. Now they have the opportunity and must show what they can do. It is not a young Springbok side going out there, it is the Springbok side. They have to go out and perform.

“It is great to see these young players coming in, they are so full of enthusiasm you almost have to slow them down at training and make sure they are also accurate, they just want to go. These guys have been outstanding in Super Rugby and can push through to be in the starting line-up for the rugby championship.”

Last year’s Scotland near miss in Nelspruit is irrelevant – the Scottish coaching team has changed as have all but 16 of the two squads on duty. Next year’s match, when the sides meet in the Rugby World Cup, is too different for this to provide any lessons. So just sit back and enjoy it as a spectacle.

Summer Test

Nelson Mandela Bay
Stadium, Pt Elizabeth, today, 4pm

Sky Sports 3, Radio Scotland MW


15. W le Roux

14. C Hendricks

13. J Pietersen

12. J Serfontein

11. L Mvovo

10. H Pollard

9. F du Preez

1. C Oosthuizen

2. B du Plessis

3. J du Plessis

4. L de Jager

5. V Matfield (c)

6. M Coetzee

7. S Burger

8. D Vermeulen


16. A Strauss

17. T Nyakane

18. M v d Merwe

19. S Lewies

20. T Mohoje

21. F Hougaard

22. M Boshoff

23. Z Kirchner


15. S Hogg

14. S Maitland

13. N De Luca

12. P Horne

11. T Seymour

10. D Weir

9. H Pyrgos

1. A Dickinson

2. R Ford

3. G Cross

4. T Swinson

5. G Gilchrist (c)

6. R Harley

7. C Fusaro

8. A Ashe


16. K Bryce

17. M Low

18. E Murray

19. J Gray

20. T Holmes

21. G Hart

22. D Fife

23. P Murchie