If anything, it’s the Springboks who are trying to induce complacency.
South Africa will field a midfield trio with just 29 caps between them, a youthful second row partnership and admitted, with a fair degree of amusement at themselves, that they’d had to overhaul their lineout for Saturday’s crunch meeting with Scotland in Newcastle.
Head coach Heineke Meyer unveiled scrum-half Fourie du Preez as the new captain in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers, who underwent surgery on a cheekbone fracture in Cape Town yesterday. du Preez has passed a fitness test but lock legend Victor Matfield failed his, meaning that Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager are the second rows.
Meyer admitted to a number of “niggles and knocks” in his squad after the successful if bruising victory over Samoa partially righted the Japan debacle in their first game. Willem Alberts will be on the bench but is less than 100 per cent fit, the coach admitted, but has to be involved or they would have to replace him in the squad.
There’s plenty experience in the team with Bismarck du Plessis returning at hooker, Bryan Habana’s 112 caps and 60 tries, including a fair few against Scotland, and Schalk Burger retianed at blindside.
One of the chief problems for the Springboks in this game, said Meyer, was that Josh Strauss and WP Nel for Scotland knew much of South Africa’s lineout strategy.
“They were both in Springbok training camps three years ago, they both got the coaching manual,” he said. “It means we’ve had to change our lineout scheme, because they are intelligent guys and I’m sure they’ve remembered everything!”
Both also speak Afrikaanse but South Africa won’t be changed their method of calls.
“It’s tougher to speak English if you’re an Afrikaanse speaker,” said Meyer. “Lood (de Jager) will be calling the lineouts and he’s got enough on his mind.”
de Jager, who scored two tries on debut when South Africa routed Scotland last summer, doesn’t think it’ll be a problem.
“We’ve had to change some things, but it’s pretty simple and nothing drastic,” he said. “We’re aware this isn’t the same team we played last time, Scotland are one of the most improved teams in world rugby this year.”
Meyer agrees that it’s a different Scottish team.
“They play total rugby, Vern Cotter is a great coach I have a lot of time for,” he said. “They are confident after two good wins, had a great warm-up campaign and I’ve been impressed with Glasgow, who supply a lot of their team.
“When you get a lot of players from one club or province it has to help the international team, and this is nearly a home game for them. They’re definitely a team on the up.”
However, added the coach, his adage was always if the Springboks played their best rugby, they would “beat any team in the world”.
“We’ve been under pressure since day one of the tournament because we made a big mistake there,” he said of the Japan defeat. “We’ve been fighting ever since and Saturday will be no different.
“We’re expecting a brutally physical match and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
South Africa: W le Roux; JP Pietersen, J Kriel, D De Allende, B Habana; H Pollard, F du Preez (capt); T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis; E Etzebeth, L de Jager; F Louw, S Burger, D Vermuelen.
Replacements: A Strauss, T Nyakane, F Malherbe, P-S du Toit, W Alberts, R Pienaar, P Lambie, J Serfontein.