Head coach Jacques Nienaber says the changes to the Springbok team to face Scotland have been made with an emphasis on experience and breaking down one of the best defensive teams in the north. DYLAN JACK reports.
Three changes have been made to the Springbok starting lineup for Saturday’s Test, with Elton Jantjies and Willie le Roux recalled at flyhalf and fullback, respectively, while Franco Mostert will play his 50th Test match.
Despite Sbu Nkosi linking up with the squad this past Sunday after missing the Test against Wales in Cardiff, Jesse Kriel keeps his place on the right wing and will also win his 50th Test cap.
Jantjies has replaced Handre Pollard, who has dropped to the bench, while Le Roux has leapfrogged Frans Steyn, who replaced the concussed Damian Willemse against Wales.
While explaining the match-day 23 selection, Nienaber said he expects Scotland to be very difficult to break down at Murrayfield and that he wants to see the Boks improve their conversion rate after letting a couple of opportunities go in Cardiff.
“If you look at Scotland, they have a quality attacking team but if you look at their scrumhalf [Ali Price], their flyhalf [Finn Russell] and their fullback [Stuart Hogg], they are British & Irish Lions and very experienced players.
“We went with quite an experienced back three and will need all the experience we can get with containing those three guys. We must really be sharp.
“Their game drivers can rip us apart on attack or they can go with a kicking game. When I went through the analysis and they beat England in the Six Nations, they kicked 43 times, which is the most kicks that I have seen from them. We will have to be awake for any tactic they use against us.”
Under defence coach Steve Tandy, Scotland conceded just 59 points and five tries in the 2020 Six Nations, the best record in the tournament. In the 2021 edition, they conceded 91 points – second to Ireland – and 10 tries, which was joint best with France and Ireland.
“We want to take our opportunities,” Nienaber said. “I felt we definitely took some of opportunities, but there were some that we missed [against Wales]. We constantly try to improve our decision- making and our awareness that when an opportunity is given to us, we take it.
“In terms of Elton, if you look at Scotland, they have been the best defensive side in the northern hemisphere in 2020 and 2021. They conceded the least tries and least points in the  Six Nations. So, they are a formidable side to break down and don’t concede many points or tries. That speaks volumes for [defence coach] Steve Tandy. Steve and Gregor [Townsend] both coached the British & Irish Lions against us.
“We have done some analysis and we feel that we can find some areas of opportunity and with Elton coming in, he will have to fit into the team’s plan, but he has a specific skill set and must bring that out on Saturday.”
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