Cotter defends selections

Scotland coach Vern Cotter believes his team will be up to the physical task when they battle South Africa on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Newcastle.

Cotter has made 10 changes to his team ahead of the Pool B clash at St James’ Park. The move has raised more than a few eyebrows in the Scottish media fraternity. It suggests that Cotter is saving his strongest possible combination for the fourth and final pool match against Samoa on 10 October.

It’s not a bad ploy. Scotland currently lead Pool B with 10 points. One more win from the next two games may be enough to secure a play-off place.

Not that Scotland will admit to it. Cotter wore a frown throughout the press conference in Newcastle on Thursday. He glared at anyone who dared to suggest that this Scotland side is not the strongest available combination.

‘We needed to pick a team that can compete and beat South Africa,’ Cotter said. ‘I believe we’ve done that. We’ve also had to take the schedule into account. We’re playing three games in 10 days.

‘We’re not looking beyond the game on Saturday. We’re halfway there in terms of qualifying for the play-offs, and we’re playing a top team this week. You have to have a crack [at winning this game].’

Captain Greig Laidlaw was equally dismissive of claims that the current side is not Scotland’s strongest.

‘We knew about the challenges we would face in this tournament. We knew it would take a 31-man effort to realise our goal of making the quarter-finals,’ said the scrumhalf. ‘I can tell you that the players are champing at the bit. The guys who have come in this week will make the most of their opportunity. I don’t think you should pre-judge; rather wait and see how the team performs.’

Laidlaw felt that Scotland displayed a remarkable level of physicality in the second half of the match against the USA last Sunday. The Scots won’t be holding back when they battle the Boks at St James’ Park.

At the same time, both Laidlaw and Cotter noted the improvements made by the Boks, who smashed Samoa 46-6 in Birmingham last Saturday.

‘They went back to a plan that has worked well for them in recent years,’ said Cotter. ‘They dominated the battle at the advantage line, and really shut down Samoa well.

‘We will have deal with that confrontation this weekend. There’s going to be a fierce contest at the point of contact.’

Photo: Matt Lewis/Getty Images

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