Murray returns with Springbok repeat high on his wish-list

 

It did not take a genius of Einstein proportions to work out how Scotland came to be on the wrong end of a record-equalling New Zealand points tally and a 51-22 scoreline at Murrayfield last Sunday.

"We missed 30-plus tackles," Sean Lamont said yesterday, wearing his team regulation training top, complete with EMC2 logo. "You can't do that against any team, let alone the world's best."

This Saturday the world's second best – well, second-ranked team – are in town and repairing the ramparts will be crucial if Scotland and their right wing are to have any hope of beating the Springboks and forcing their way into the top eight in the international rankings ahead of next month's World Cup draw. "We're hoping to do what we did two years ago and get a backlash against South Africa," Lamont added.

In the autumn of 2010 Scotland reacted to a 49-3 thumping by New Zealand with a Blacklash against the Boks the following week. Seven days after leaking seven tries against the All Blacks, they restricted South Africa to just a late consolation five-pointer in a 21-17 victory. Dan Parks, now retired from the international arena, scored all the home points with his right boot that day but just as vital to the Scots' success was the clout that came from Euan Murray at the coal face of the scrum.

For the second time in two visits by the Springboks, the Tartan tight-head got the better of South Africa's loosehead prop, Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira. Sadly there will be no renewal of acquaintance at Murrayfield on Saturday between Beauty, if Murray can be described as such, and the Beast, Mtawarira having returned home at the weekend after suffering heart palpitations before South Africa's 16-12 win against Ireland in Dublin.

Murray, however, has been restored to the Scotland starting line-up in the one unenforced change made by the head coach, Andy Robinson. David Denton comes in as openside flanker because Ross Rennie is out with a dislocated shoulder. Murray, of course, missed the All Black game because his devout Christian beliefs extend to resting on the Sabbath. He might have missed out this week, too, Geoff Cross having produced a fine, try-scoring performance in his absence.

"I was hugely pleased with Geoff's performance, but I still believe that Euan is our best tight-head prop," Robinson reasoned. "Euan performed well in the summer and he's been playing well at Agen lately. Geoff will get an opportunity this weekend off the bench but I still see Euan as our best scrummager in a battle that's going to be mighty this weekend in taking on Steenkamp."

Gurthro Steenkamp comes in at loose-head prop for the Springboks, one of two changes made by their head coach, Heyneke Meyer, who has also decided to give a start at outside centre to the quicksilver Western Province centre Juan de Jongh as a midfield partner for the captain, Jean de Villiers.

"Steenkamp's a big, strong player," said Murray, who left Newcastle in the summer and will move from Agen to Worcester at the end of the autumn series. "I played against him for Agen against Toulouse. South Africa have got lots of powerful experienced props.

"It's sad news about the Beast. He's a nice guy and a very good player. I wish him well. I hope he gets back playing."

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