Adam ASHE will become the seventh player to make his Scotland debut this summer after being named in the XV to face South Africa in Port Elizabeth tomorrow (4.00pm).
Glasgow Warriors No.8 Ashe has only played 36 minutes of professional rugby this season due to injury, but is one of four changes to the Scotland starting line-up that won in Argentina.
The 20-year-old has joined the squad from New Zealand where he was training at Canterbury University in Christchurch after winning the John McPhail scholarship and Scotland coach Vern Cotter has no doubts the youngster is ready, saying: “He has been identified as a talent, that is why he was in New Zealand on that scholarship.
“I think they are pretty good judges of quality and character down there and he has come back with positive feedback.
“He is a talented young player. These days, 20 to 21 is not old to be playing top-level footie. It is now you want to be putting your hand up and saying ‘this is what I want to do’.
“He is a specialist number eight and we did not have one and we want to have a look at him.”
Ashe replaces London Irish back row Kieran Low, the Aviva Premiership having banned players from its member clubs from this game, and Chris Fusaro steps up from the bench to replace another London Irish player, flanker Blair Cowan.
Cotter has also made two other changes to his starting XV, with Tim Swinson returning in place of Jonny Gray in the second row, and scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, who scored a try as a replacement in last week’s 21-19 win over Argentina in Cordoba, replacing Grayson Hart.
Gray and Hart both drop to the bench, with uncapped Glasgow forward Tyrone Holmes coming in for club-mate Fusaro among the replacements. If Holmes plays he would become the 25th player in the last 18 months to debut with Scotland, and the eighth on the summer tour.
It is almost all change among the other replacements, Euan Murray ready to win his 60th cap after returning to the squad, while Peter Murchie hopes to resume an international career stalled by injury. Only wing Dougie Fife keeps his place from last week’s bench.
Though Scotland arrive in Port Elizabeth unbeaten on this tour, Cotter is under no illusion that this is by far their sternest test, even though South Africa have also been forced into a raft of changes.
“They are very strong,” he said. “Very strong from driven line-outs. They will be physical but we can’t just expect them to try to dominate us. They will move the ball at certain times as well. We have to be prepared to get off the defensive line and cut them down quickly.”
South Africa: W le Roux (Cheetahs); C Hendricks (Cheetahs), J Pietersen (Sharks), J Serfontein (Bulls), L Mvovo (Sharks); H Pollard (Bulls), F du Preez (Bulls); C Oosthuizen (Cheetahs), B du Plessis (Sharks), J du Plessis (Sharks), L de Jager (Cheetahs), V Matfield (C) (Bulls), M Coetzee (Sharks), S Burger (Stormers), D Vermeulen (Stormers). Replacements: A Strauss (Cheetahs), T Nyakane (Cheetahs), M van der Merwe (Bulls), S Lewies (Sharks), T Mohoje (Cheetahs), F Hougaard (Bulls), M Boshoff (Lions), Z Kirchner (Leinster).
Scotland: S Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); S Maitland (Glasgow Warriors), N De Luca (Edinburgh), P Horne (Glasgow Warriors), T Seymour (Glasgow Warriors); D Weir (Glasgow Warriors), H Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors); A Dickinson (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), G Cross (Glasgow Warriors), T Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), G Gilchrist (Edinburgh), R Harley (Glasgow Warriors), C Fusaro (Glasgow Warriors) A Ashe (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: K Bryce (Glasgow Warriors), M Low (Glasgow Warriors), E Murray (Glasgow Warriors), J Gray (Glasgow Warriors), T Holmes (Glasgow Warriors), G Hart (Edinburgh), D Fife (Edinburgh), P Murchie (Glasgow Warriors).