Scotland spring surprises in selection to take on Boks

Centre Matt returns after four-year absence

Sbu Nkosi of South Africa during the South African national men's rugby training session at Peffermill Playing Fields on November 09, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Sbu Nkosi of South Africa during the South African national men's rugby training session at Peffermill Playing Fields on November 09, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Scotland have brought back centre Matt Scott after a four-year absence in one of four changes to their team to take on world champions South Africa in their test at Murrayfield tomorrow.

Coach Gregor Townsend sprung several selection surprises, including dropping Hamish Watson despite him playing against the Springboks for the British & Irish Lions earlier this year.

Scott, 31, will play for the first time since a 34-13 win over Italy in Singapore in 2017, partnering Lion Chris Harris at centre while Townsend picked the speedy 21-year-old Rufus McLean on the wing for only his second cap after two tries on debut against Tonga at Murrayfield a fortnight ago.

"Scott picked up injuries at the wrong time in the past but has gone on to show what he can do at Leicester Tigers. His ball carrying and work rate could work for us," Townsend told a news conference.

Nick Haining replaces Watson among the loose forwards in another selection surprise. He will play on the blindside with Jamie Ritchie switching over to openside while Watson is on the bench.

"Nick performed very well in a physical game against France earlier this year in the Six Nations and his style of play will benefit us," the coach added.

"Hamish has also played not much rugby so it's also about protecting him."

Former captain Stuart McInally, who was sick last week, will play at hooker in place of George Turner, who hurt a rib in last Sunday’s 15-13 win over Australia and was not considered.

“Sunday’s result against Australia was another positive step in the evolution of this team, but there is more to come from this group. And we’ll have to raise our level of performance on Saturday against the world champions,” said Townsend.

“We know what to expect from the Springboks in how they play and the physicality they will bring across the team. We have therefore selected a side that we believe can both meet that challenge and give us the platform to impose our game on the opposition. It should be a full-blooded contest and will require an intensity and focus across our 23-man squad for the full 80 minutes," the Scotland coach added. 

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