Cotter opts for size in bid to spring a sur­prise

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport: Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Richard Bath

Scot­land are cer­tainly giv­ing it a lash. This af­ter­noon, in an ef­fort to raise the pulses and stiffen the sinews, 300 tar­tan-clad pipers and drum­mers will pa­rade through the cen­tre of New­cas­tle and up to St James’s Park.

In the hours lead­ing up to the clos­est thing Scot­land have to a home fix­ture, tens of thou­sands of their coun­try­men will throng the streets of the city and keep the bar taps busy in the fan zone.

If there will be no short­age of sound or fury this af­ter­noon, wiser heads are tak­ing a more san­guine squint at un­beaten Scot­land’s piv­otal pool en­counter.

When in doubt sen­si­ble souls fol­low the ad­vice of the book­ies, and yesterday Scot­land drifted out to 8/1 to beat South Africa af­ter the pun­ters con­cluded this is a Scot­land sec­ond-string which is des­tined to come off sec­ond-best.

Those hope­ful voices who had forecast a first Scot­tish vic­tory over

South Africa out­with Scot­land’s borders have gone strangely quiet.

On the face of it, Scot­land have rea­sons to be hope­ful. South Africa have been un­usu­ally fal­li­ble un­der the like­able Heyneke Meyer, los­ing half of their past 16 Tests.

Although they bru­talised Samoa last week af­ter the hu­mil­i­a­tion of their de­feat by Ja­pan, it re­mains true that back-to-back wins have been al­most im­pos­si­ble to come by. And that was for a Spring­boks side cap­tained by the tal­is­manic Jean de Vil­liers or pack leader Vic­tor Mat­field.

How they will fare un­der standin cap­tain, Fourie du Preez, re­mains to be seen. Du Preez is a great scrum-half, but whether a man uni­ver­sally de­scribed as a man of few words can in­spire is de­bat­able.

A more con­crete con­sid­er­a­tion is South Africa’s propen­sity to cough up un­nec­es­sary penal­ties. Such was their in­dis­ci­pline against Samoa and Ja­pan that they con­ceded 15 penal­ties per game.

Grieg Laid­law and long-range spe­cial­ist Stu­art Hogg will gorge them­selves if they stage a reprise.

If Scot­land can keep the Spring­boks close, this match will re­volve around the phys­i­cal con­fronta­tion up front. Vern Cotter may have had lit­tle choice but to ring the changes, but a line-up show­ing 11 al­ter­ations from the team who started against the United States Ea­gles lays bare the ex­tent of the chal­lenge.

Apart from the cu­ri­ous case of Tim Visser, Scot­land have gone for size at ev­ery turn. There is size up front and four of the starters in the backs – cap­tain Laid­law, cen­tre Matt Scott, full-back Hogg and wing Tommy Seymour – are first choices, while Dun­can Weir is the only avail­able op­tion given Rus­sell’s in­jury.

Four years ago, Scot­land com­fort­ably beat Ro­ma­nia and Ge­or­gia be­fore be­ing edged out by Eng­land and Ar­gentina.

Cotter is a keen stu­dent of rugby history and will not want to re­peat the mis­take, but it leaves Scot­land with an up­hill strug­gle if they are to beat the Boks.

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