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Australian pundit picks the 'weakest players' in the Scotland squad

By Ian Cameron
Scotland players take part in a lap of honour after the pre-2023 World Cup warm-up rugby union match between Scotland and Georgia at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh on August 26, 2023. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP) (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Australian sports outlet ‘The Roar’ has down a SWOT analysis on a handful of the best teams at the Rugby World Cup and they haven’t pulled their punches at where they see weaknesses in other sides, not least the Scotland squad.


Indeed, as one of the teams whose strengths and weaknesses were evaluated by pundit Harry Jones, Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad were put under the microscope and an interesting theory on where there may be potential chinks in their armour was furnished. 

The area where Jones sees weak links in Scotland is ironically an area that has often been attributed by the team’s critics as an area of potential unfair advantage for the side: their reliance on South African imports.

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Scotland’s 33-man squad has more than a whiff of a Saffa about it, with four players originally from South Africa and centre Huw Jones having spent much of his formative rugby career in the Rainbow Nation.

“The reasons they will lose out again are their set piece frailty (only as compared to South Africa and Ireland) and midfield defence,” wrote Jones.

“Their weakest players are try-scoring 13 Huw Jones (only on defence) because he opens the door as wide without the ball as he does with it, and (as odd as it may sound) their South African props. Old WP Nel is past it and less-than-technical Pierre Schoeman is a bit like Thomas Gallo of Argentina: better at carrying the ball than carrying the scrum.

“In addition, the emigres often play worst when up against their old countries (Paul Willemse, Jack Dempsey, Duhan van der Merwe, Bundee Aki) because they try too hard.”


For sure Scotland face an uphill battle in Pool B against South Africa, Ireland, Tonga and Romania – which has been dubbed this Rugby World Cup’s Pool of Death. Townsend’s side – however – have shown they can mix it with the world’s best in their two-match warm-up with the French. The Scots won the first game in their backyard – admittedly against an understrength France – and very nearly the second against a full-strength outfit in St Etienne the following weekend.

While consistency remains elusive, there is no doubt this Scotland squad are more than capable of felling one or even potentially both of pool favourites Ireland and South Africa.




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Harry 289 days ago

Cheers, Ian. Thanks for the post. Huw is a good lad; a darling of Newlands + missed by the clubs (rugby + night) of Cape Town. Fare thee well!

Kombo mwalimu 289 days ago

Psychologically it's extremely difficult to win against your parent country.

Flankly 289 days ago

Rassie and Jacques have been watching Scotland tapes for months. And they have a cunning plan.

The team will respect Romania and Tonga, but (with respect) a baseline Bok performance ought to deliver the W in both cases. So what is left for a QF berth is to beat Scotland. If they do that the Ireland game will be more about bragging rights than RWC prospects. They would have preferred that game last, of course, because they will not be assured of a place prior to the Ireland match.

So the big Bok objective in the pool stages is to win three games, which means they need to beat Scotland. Given Rassie's track record of clever tactics you know that he has a theory about how to beat Scotland. Aside from general forward dominance I think we will see the Boks take vd Merwe and Russell out of the game with aggressive defense. Then Scotland will need to beat SA with their plan B, and that's not as pretty.

Also they will have figured out the real defensive weakness, which I think is called forward fatigue. If the Boks are in range with 20m to go (a fair bet) then the last 20m will no doubt deliver a Bok victory.

It's a pivotal game. If the Boks do lose to Scotland then the Ireland game will be a candidate for the game of the tournament.

mitch 289 days ago

He’s South African.

GrahamVF 289 days ago

Well to be honest neither of the Scottish South African props would be in the Springbok squad. Ruhan vd Merwe might have been under the old way South Africa played but he now would have to compete with Kolbe, Arendse, Mapimpi and Moodie and unless SA went back to the crash boom bang it's doubtful that Van would have made the squad either.

bob 289 days ago

Harry me lad. That ‘old WP Nel’ still wins many scrum penalties and makes lots of tackles.
He would/will still annihilate the Aussie props.

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