Talking points ahead of Scotland’s meeting with South Africa at Murrayfield

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Scotland host world champions South Africa in the Autumn Nations Series on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the talking points ahead of the game at Murrayfield.

Scots must defy history

Dan Parks
Dan Parks scored all of Scotland’s points when they last beat South Africa in 2010. (Lynne Cameron/PA)

South Africa have won each of the last six meetings between the teams. It is 11 years since the Scots last defeated the Boks as Dan Parks kicked every point for Andy Robinson’s team in a 21-17 victory in an autumn Test at Murrayfield in November 2010. The last clash between these two nations was three years ago, when the Boks won 26-20 in Edinburgh. The Scots have beaten the South Africans only five times in 27 attempts over more than a century, but Gregor Townsend’s team – with a core of players buoyed by British & Lions involvement against the Boks in the summer – are entitled to fancy their chances of a rare win this weekend.

Test of Scots’ renaissance

Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend has overseen a strong burst of Scottish form this year. (Steve Welsh/PA)

Scotland have won five of their seven matches so far in 2021, including each of their last four. Notably, three of those victories have come against sides currently ranked above them in the world rankings: England, France and Australia. If they can defeat world champions South Africa, it will mean they have defeated four of the top six teams on the planet and lend further credence to the notion that Gregor Townsend’s burgeoning team – currently ranked seventh – are ready to establish themselves as one of the leading nations in the world.

Big test for Rufus McLean

Rufus McLean marked an outstanding Scotland debut by scoring two excellent tries in the rout of Tonga a fortnight ago before being left out for the Australia match. The Glasgow wing faces a significantly sterner test on his second outing in dark blue, however, as he is restored to the starting XV for the clash with the Boks. It will be intriguing to see how he handles the step up in opposition.

Matt Scott back in from the cold

While McLean represents the future, Matt Scott can be deemed a familiar face from the past. The 31-year-old Leicester centre has won 39 caps but has not appeared for the national team for four-and-a-half years – since June 2017, to be precise – due to a combination of injury, indifferent form, stiff competition for places and Covid call-offs. Scott has been rewarded for his impressive form for the Tigers by being handed a long-awaited return to the starting XV against the Boks. It can be considered a huge opportunity for him to reignite his stalled international career.

Every point will be crucial

Finn Russell
Finn Russell’s kicks could again be crucial for Scotland (Steve Welsh/PA)

Both teams have been involved in several tight matches this year, often settled by just a few points. If Scotland are to win, there is every chance it will be by a narrow margin, as was the case in their victories over France and Australia. Concentration, discipline and accuracy in the key moments will be of paramount importance in a game where a late penalty – such as that scored by Finn Russell on Sunday – could easily prove decisive either way.

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