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Scotland’s Grant Gilchrist on facing the 'best version' of the Springboks

By PA
Faf de Klerk of South Africa runs back to join his team mates during the Summer International match between New Zealand All Blacks v South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on August 25, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Bullish Grant Gilchrist is adamant Scotland remain unfazed by South Africa’s blistering form in the lead-up to their World Cup showdown in Marseille a week on Sunday.

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While the Scots have enjoyed an encouraging summer campaign, the Boks have been busy inflicting record defeats on both Wales (52-16) and New Zealand (35-7) over the past two weekends to climb to second in the world rankings.

The Scotland squad watched South Africa’s demolition of the All Blacks together in their hotel on Friday, but lock Gilchrist insists it has not caused any heightened trepidation within the dressing room.

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“It doesn’t change our mindset,” he told the PA news agency. “We’ve known all along that South Africa can peak at a World Cup, they’re world champions for a reason.

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“We always knew the size of the challenge that was going to face us. Other people might say this and that, but we were expecting to play the best version of the Springboks, and we’re going to relish that opportunity.

“It’s even more exciting when you see the way they played against the All Blacks. They’re one of the top sides in the world and we have to go out and impose our game on them.

“If you don’t feel excited about playing South Africa at a World Cup when they’re in the form they’re in, then you’re in the wrong changing room. We’re going to embrace that.

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“We know we’ll be massive underdogs but we’ll be going into that game having prepared really well and we certainly believe if we can get our best rugby on the pitch for 80 minutes we can cause them a lot of problems.”

The Scots made it three wins from four summer Tests on Saturday when they recovered from a 6-0 half-time deficit to defeat Georgia 33-6 at Murrayfield, with five tries after the break. Gilchrist feels it was good practice for their World Cup pool matches against the likes of Tonga and Romania when the Scots will find themselves cast as favourites.

“We spoke last week about how it was always going to be a mental challenge playing at home with all the expectation that we were going to blow Georgia away,” he explained.

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“They’re a good side, they win a lot of games. I know they play a tier down from us but they beat Wales recently. They’re not a minnow side, they’re a quality outfit and they showed that for spells. They’ve got players tearing up the Top 14.

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“We knew the challenge and that we’d have to be patient, so the pleasing side of it is that we didn’t panic, we stuck to the task and we got the job done.”

Gilchrist feels his team have shown in bursts over the summer – particularly in the two matches home and away against France – what they could be capable of at the World Cup.

“I think we’ve got to look at the positives,” he said, reflecting on the summer campaign. “We’ve built our game and I think we’re really comfortable with what our best performance looks like.

“Probably the second half of the home game against France (when they scored 22 unanswered points to win 25-21) and also the way we started and finished in Saint-Etienne (when losing 30-27).

“We understand we’re going to have to put that out on the pitch for 80 minutes and we’ve not done that yet. But these are warm-up games, they’re for finding your form. We understand we’re going to have to peak in two weeks and that’s an exciting challenge.”

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