Scotland Under-20s coach Carl Hogg believes his young charges are capable of overcoming the might of the Baby Boks in their junior World Cup opener in Argentina today but accepts they will need a near perfect performance.
The Scots face South Africa in Rosario this afternoon as they open their pool campaign and the former Scotland forward is under no illusions that a daunting couple of weeks lie ahead in a section which also contains New Zealand and Georgia.
The man who will leave the SRU to join Ospreys as forwards coach after the tournament is approaching the task with positivity, though.
“Without a doubt but we will have to get a lot of elements right to get the result,” said the coach from the Argentine port city nearly 200 miles north-west of the capital Buenos Aires after naming his team yesterday.
“We are very confident, we trained very well and we understand their strengths. We believe we have a game plan that can be successful.”
Newcastle Falcons’ Tom Marshall will make his Scotland debut after previously being a member of the wider England squad.
The No 8 Marshall is named in a settled starting line-up that features only three changes to the side that faced England U20 in the final match of the junior Six Nations earlier this year.
Marshall Sykes of Ayr, who missed all of the Six Nations campaign through injury, is selected at blindside flanker, while Grant Hughes of Stirling County gets the nod at inside centre.
A year ago in France the Scotland Under-20 side coached by Hogg’s former Melrose team-mate Bryan Redpath played some excellent rugby but found them outmuscled by bigger opposition in their early matches and that will clearly be a challenge against the South Africans.
“We obviously have to face that physical challenge at set-piece and when they carry,” continued Hogg.
“Defensively we have to make sure we are accurate with our low tackles and not get caught upright in that physical challenge. When we do have the ball we have to keep it in play and play at high tempo.
“That means we have to stress our skillset and have to be accurate in allowing these long periods of time when when we think we can get the advantage.”
Hogg believes his squad have progressed since a Six Nations campaign which saw them get one win at home to Wales. “You like to think so but the real test always comes with games,” said the coach. “Everyone will tell you they have had the best preseason ever until you hit that first game. I am very confident in the group, we have trained well.
“I think the week in Washington [including a 70-7 win over Old Glory DC] has been beneficial not just from a playing aspect but from cultural bonding. This is a very tight group of players, probably one of the tightest I have been involved with, and we have got to make sure these relationships come to bear on the context.
“We have to push ourselves to a different level from the Six Nations but I believe we are capable of doing that.”
Hogg is looking forward to seeing Hughes team up with Wasps’ Cameron Anderson in the midfield.
“[Grant brings] really good communication. He communicates not just inside to Ross Thomson but also to our forward groups. Getting that level of communication and chat in early is important. He is very much a New Zealand-style second five-eighth who does a lot of talking a lot of communicating and our shape is much, much better when Grant is there at 12. Robbie McCallum is unlucky, he played very well against Old Glory, so there have been some headaches in selection.”
The games come thick and fast in this tournament, which Hogg admits presents a challenge for him and the players.
“We are taking a longer term view, we have to be very mindful that we have three games within a ten-day period so we have to be smart with our resources,” he said. “We know what we want to achieve and we have to have in mind that we have five games in three weeks. We have probably not got the strength in depth of other nations so we have to be smart around selection and how we mean to play.”