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Scotland coach gives the message every South African wants to hear

By PA
Duane Vermeulen of South Africa applauds the fans at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade Velodrome on September 10, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Peter Horne laughed off any concerns from the South Africa camp that Scotland and Ireland may conspire to eliminate the Springboks with an unlikely result that suits both teams in Saturday night’s Pool B showdown in Paris.

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The most realistic outcome is that only one of Ireland or Scotland will progress to the quarter-finals alongside the reigning champions.

However, there is a scenario whereby a bonus-point victory for the Scots by a margin of 21 points or more combined with Ireland collecting a losing bonus point for scoring at least four tries would put both nations in the quarter-finals while knocking out South Africa.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber – when asked by a journalist after his team’s victory over Tonga on Sunday whether he had any worries about a carve-up that suited both Scotland and Ireland – said such a result would be a sign of “match-fixing”.

“Could I believe in a scenario that they will decide ‘do we want to get this amount of points and then get South Africa out of the way?’” mused Nienaber.

“That would probably be match-fixing, I would say. I hope not. Rugby is clean. We wear those t-shirts so hopefully not because that would be extremely disappointing.”

Scotland assistant coach Horne, speaking at their training base in Nice on Tuesday afternoon, gave short shrift to such a notion.

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“Yeah,” he laughed when asked if it was “ridiculous” to suggest the two teams might collude.

“We’ve not even thought about it. We were briefed about it before this press conference, but, prior to that, I hadn’t even seen the comments.

“It’s nothing that we’ve spoken about. We’ve just focused on the job we have to do on Saturday night. That’s big enough in itself.”

While the scenario that takes both teams through appears unlikely, Scotland know that in order for them to qualify for the last eight they must secure a bonus-point win or deny the Irish a losing bonus.

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Horne insists the pressure of either having to win by eight points or by scoring four tries will not cause the Scots any extra “stress” in the early stages of the match.

“Obviously it’s going to be in the back of our minds, but I don’t think we’ll be stressing too much in the first 20 minutes about that,” he said.

“We’re not going to score four tries in the first 20. It will be something we are aware of – we would be daft not to be.

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“But it’s not something we are actively bringing up in our meetings. The key guys on the field, the key decision-makers, will be well aware and as the game unfolds, it’s something that will potentially come into play a bit more.

“The way we play, we know we can put pressure on any team. With the style of rugby we are playing, the threats we have, we can cause anyone trouble.

“We’ve got to execute and be accurate. It’s going to be a huge challenge but we have real belief in our boys.”

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