Heyneke Meyer has not tasted defeat at the hands of a northern hemisphere rival in over three years and defensive coach John McFarland is not prepared to let that record slip.
The Springboks head to Port Elizabeth for their final Test in the June series hoping to improve on their performance from last week where they just defeated Wales by a point. An under strength Scottish side arrives in South Africa on the back of three victories from their first tour under new coach Vern Cotter. A 24-6 victory over the USA and two tight victories over Canada (19-17) and Argentina (21-19) will see Cotter’s men riding high and looking to upset the Springboks, as they have done before.
McFarland has been keeping an eye out on the resurgent Scottish and knows that even with a depleted squad they can still cause a hiccup for the South Africans. “We watched that game against Argentina, they are on a good roll, they have won three on the bounce and this is their last game of the season with their new coach,” McFarland told the media in Port Elizabeth.
The assistant coach, while being aware of his opposition, is also aware of what this game means for the Springboks under coach Meyer. “We have a very proud record against northern hemisphere teams over the last three years. “If we do well on the weekend we will have been unbeaten record against northern hemisphere teams – so this is obviously what we want to do,” he added.
Looking deeper into the Scottish make-up, McFarland is not being lured into complacency due to the fact that most of their foreign based players are not available. “There are similar players here as there were in November and certainly their back three is very strong,” the coach said of his team’s opposition. “Hogg, Maitland and Seymour are all playing good rugby – their back three are a pretty potent threat.
“They are predominately made up of players from Glasgow and Edinburgh and the fact is that the two teams are coached in a similar way, the Scotland defensive coach is also Glasgow’s defensive coach so he works with those guys daily.”
With the Scots known to throw up a few speed-bumps to southern hemisphere teams (beating Australia 9-6 in 2012 and South Africa 21-17 in 2010) there will be no room to underestimate the Thistles. This comes after the Springboks were almost pipped by Wales on the weekend after thumping them 38-16 in the previous week.
“We are still looking for performance and execution of our game plan,” continued McFarland “It is a measure of a team that they can come back under that sort of pressure and strain and not panic and play proper rugby and end up winning the game in the 78th minute. “The way we bounced back in those last 50 minutes really showed great character, our work-rate was high, if you look at that last passage of play I think we made 30 tackles in the space of two minutes and really got great kick pressure on the drop goal.
“New Zealand have also been in that position, against Ireland at the end of last year, and they came back. “That is why were are excited, we are able to win a match in so many different ways at the moment.” The big talking point around the country is the spaces that are left by the returning foreign based players to their overseas clubs, and who will fill them. McFarland was tight-lipped on personnel, but mentioned that the extended squad should allow new players to fill in seamlessly.
“It is obviously sad to see them [overseas based players] go because they have contributed a lot, but other guys get chances to play and to make their mark as well,” McFarland said in closing. “It is actually great to have them for the period that we have had, to have a big squad of 36 and to be able to work with them for three weeks.
“If I think back to 2012, we also had an extended squad with about nine or 10 young guns in that squad and if you look, all of those guys have been capped.
“They get to learn the structures, the coaches, how we work and they feel more comfortable with it so it has been great to have a bigger squad.”