WP Nel and Josh Strauss can help Scotland avoid the same fate as the Springboks when they take on Japan in Gloucester on Wednesday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Nel played for Western Province, Boland and Free State before signing with Edinburgh in 2012. Three years later, and the tighthead prop came off the bench during the World Cup warm-up match against Italy in Torino to make his Test debut for his adopted nation. The 29-year-old then started the two warm-up matches against Italy at Murrayfield and France in Paris, and has retained the No 3 jersey for Scotland's World Cup opener.
Strauss, the No 8 who captained the Golden Lions to the Currie Cup title in 2011, followed a similar path after signing for Gloucester in 2012. The 28-year-old only became eligible to play for Scotland after the recent warm-up matches, and should make his debut off the bench on Wednesday.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter has been criticised for selecting too many 'foreigners' – especially Kiwi flank John Hardie, who qualified through a grandmother and made his Test debut just a few weeks after arriving in Scotland – but if they strengthen the team, and help win matches, then not too many Scottish rugby fans will be complaining.
Scotland have won all four of their matches against Japan, with a 42-17 victory at Murrayfield two years ago when the teams last met. But that won't worry the Brave Blossoms, who have already proved that history counts for little at a World Cup. In fact, Japan's win against the Boks saw them move to No 11 on the world rankings with Scotland slipping to 12th.
One thing that could count against the Japanese is the short turnaround between their first and second matches at this World Cup – just four days. That has forced coach Eddie Jones to make six changes to his starting XV instead of being able to stick with a winning combination.
NEL'S STATS THAT MATTER
3 – Test caps for Scotland
2 – Test starts for Scotland
46 – Super Rugby caps for the Cheetahs
9 – Super Rugby tries for the Cheetahs
HEAD TO HEAD
Scotland 4, Japan 0
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Maitland.
Japan – 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Male Sau, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Justin Ives, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kazu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Shoji Ito, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Atsushi Hiwasa, 23 Karne Hesketh.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images