Scotland’s defence will need to stand up and be counted to nullify South Africa’s attacking threat according to coach Gregor Townsend, after bringing back Huw Jones as one of six changes to his starting XV to take on the Springboks.
Jones is the only alteration to the back division that started the 54-17 triumph over Fiji a week ago, with the centre looking to recapture the transcendent form at BT Murrayfield that saw him score three tries in just two games there – against France and England – in this year’s Six Nations.
The 24-year-old was in the starting line-up for the Doddie Weir Cup clash against Wales a fortnight ago and will partner fellow Glasgow Warrior Pete Horne in the midfield against the Springboks.
A much-changed pack sees prop Gordon Reid and hooker Stuart McInally return to the front row, while an all-new pairing of Jonny Gray and Ben Toolis make up the second row.
Last week’s debutant Sam Skinner switches from lock to blindside flanker – where he finished last week’s Test – and the final personnel change is Hamish Watson being handed the No.7 jersey.
Scotland last beat South Africa when they triumphed 21-17 during the 2010 Autumn Internationals and Townsend – who was an assistant coach for that victory – is aware of the strength of the ever-improving Boks.
“South Africa have made a lot of improvements over the last three or four months, beating the All Blacks in New Zealand and putting in an 80-minute performance to defeat France in Paris, which underlines their quality,” explained Townsend.
“Their traditional strength has always been their physicality and this remains a key point of difference for them.
“We expect them to be confrontational and powerful in their ball carrying, their defence and also at set-piece time. It will be a great challenge for our forward pack in particular.
“South Africa have always had a smart kicking game with an excellent chase but what we’ve seen over the past few months is an ambition to move the ball from counter-attack and a push to get their forwards passing the ball more.
“Our defence will have to be strong to nullify this ambitious attacking gameplan. We’re looking forward to playing one of the best teams in the world and playing once more in front of a sell-out crowd at BT Murrayfield.”
The six changes mean that tighthead prop WP Nel, back-rower Ryan Wilson and winger Tommy Seymour – who scored a hat-trick against Fiji – are the only three players named to start a third consecutive Test match this autumn. Scotland team to play South Africa at BT Murrayfield: 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Pete Horne, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw (captain); 1. Gordon Reid, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Willem Nel, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Sam Skinner, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Ryan Wilson Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Allan Dell, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Josh Strauss, 20. Jamie Ritchie, 21. Ali Price, 22. Adam Hastings, 23. Chris Harris