Scotland v South Africa: Beating Springboks would be 'best win' – Gregor Townsend

Autumn Test: Scotland v South Africa
Venue: Murrayfield Date: Saturday, 17 November Kick-off: 17:20 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Television, listen live on Radio Scotland & online; text commentary on BBC Sport website & app

Beating South Africa on Saturday would eclipse any Scotland win of the last two years, believes Gregor Townsend.

The Scots have beaten Ireland, Wales, England, France and Australia at home since early 2017, and also beaten the Wallabies and Argentina away.

But the head coach says the Springboks’ recent form, with wins in New Zealand and France, brings a greater challenge.

“Given what they’ve done recently, it would probably be our biggest win of the last couple of years,” he said.

“Obviously, the England win [25-13 in this year’s Six Nations] stands out as memorable given they had won so many games in succession and that trophy [the Calcutta Cup] we play for makes it even more special.

“I just feel South Africa now are in the top two or three teams in the world with how they’ve played against the best teams in the world.

“Going to New Zealand and beating them, almost beating them a second time, showing what they were capable of last week against France, coming from behind to get a great win… they are going to be a very tough team to beat.”

‘The biggest, strongest men they can find’

Scotland have only ever won five of their 26 Tests against South Africa, the last when Townsend was assistant coach in 2010, their lone success in the last 13 meetings between the two countries since 2002.

Townsend believes the Springboks still represent the “number one” challenge physically in world rugby.

“We get physical challenges in the Six Nations with the likes of England and France, and in recent seasons Ireland. But ask any coach in world rugby which team provides the biggest physicality with your forwards, it is South Africa. It always has been.

“They have evolved their game since [head coach] Rassie [Erasmus] took over, but they’ve not gone away from their forward pack. They select the biggest, strongest men they can find.”

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Given the likely size of the opposition pack, Townsend believes the strength in reserve he can call upon from the bench could be a decisive element, with the likes of Josh Strauss – impressive as a replacement against Fiji – primed to enter the fray.

“The bench has had a good impact in the past two weeks,” Townsend noted. “In Wales the last 15-20 minutes was our best section of the game, and we scored 19 points in the last 20 minutes against Fiji.

“To beat one of the top teams in the world, you need an 80-minute performance. You need to be at your best at the beginning and play at the same level – and the same speed – at the end, especially against a side like South Africa who can wear you down and have huge strength around the set-piece and with their big ball-carriers.

“We have to make sure they are tired in the last 20 minutes.”

Despite the scale of the challenge, Townsend insists Scotland “believe we can win”, buoyed by a Murrayfield crowd that has witnessed nine home wins in their last 10 Tests.

“The players have played close to their best in those games and the energy [the crowd] have brought at home is excellent,” he added.

“Against some of the best teams in the world, we’ve seen better performances from our players. We’ve risen to the challenge and that’s what we’re looking to do this week – play our best.”

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