Scotland suffered a 27-17 defeat to Samoa in the opening weekend of the Castle Lager Test Series in Durban and have been dealt a series of injury blows in the lead-up to Saturday’s Test match against the host Springboks. Glasgow prop Gordon Reid was the third player to be flown out from Scotland after the squad lost Ryan Grant to the British and Irish Lions before the tournament started, and Kelly Brown, Pat MacArthur and Geoff Cross to injury in the wake of the Samoa loss.
Tighthead prop Euan Murray is struggling to recover from a hamstring injury and so Reid yesterday joined Jon Welsh and Fraser Brown in flying in to South Africa to plug holes.
But, even before the injury crisis developed, Mark Keohane – a former Springbok media officer – wrote off Scotland’s chances in the current South Africa Rugby Magazine with withering criticism.
“There is no way to dress up South Africa’s early-season internationals,” he said. “They’re mostly against the donkeys of the northern hemisphere and the only real highlight of the quadrangular series that features the Boks, Scotland, Italy and Samoa is the fact that Samoa will bring their strongest squad and the Boks could get to play them in the final.
“The Boks will be in the final. If they are not they may as well pull out of the Rugby Championship in August. To even consider anything but a convincing tournament win for South Africa would be to insult the game in this country.
“Scotland have beaten the Boks before but they should never be allowed to entertain thoughts of a victory against the Boks in South Africa. Three Scotland players are touring with the Lions – Richie Gray, Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland, the former Crusaders wing. He [Maitland] is easily the best in Scotland, which again highlights the lack of international pedigree that will face the Boks.
“What will come to South Africa is a ‘best of the rest’ from Scotland and that alone tells you that the Boks could pick any match 22 and triumph.”
On Scotland’s form, he wrote: “Somehow Scotland won two of their Six Nations matches against Ireland and Italy. France, who hadn’t won a game in the tournament, beat Scotland in Paris and Wales and England comfortably brushed aside their challenge.
“The win against Ireland was unlikely and unexpected and allowed critics of the Scottish game to agree on a relatively successful campaign because Scotland managed to beat a team outside Italy. Come on!
“These guys are donkeys. South Africa should pump them and to try and write up the visitors is to insult anyone who has taken the time to read this article. There is nothing this team will bring to South Africa that can threaten the Boks.”
He called Italy “toothless tigers” who are “a danger to themselves with ball in hand” and added: “Samoa is the side I want to see the Springboks play in the final of the tournament, especially as they will be at full-strength.”
However, South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer has dismissed those comments as bearing no relation to thoughts inside his squad.
“We have a lot of respect for Scotland,” he said. “If you look at our results in the last few years they have beaten us twice, and that was against quality sides. This is a young [South Africa] team and obviously we’re still learning and we want to do well, but Scotland are a very difficult team to play against.
“They play with a lot of passion and heart and irrespective of what happened against Samoa they always lift themselves against the Boks so we know this is going to be a very physical encounter, and we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them.”