Stuart Hogg believes Scotland will have plenty more fresh tricks up their sleeve when seeking to get their EMC Autumn Test series “back on track” against South Africa on Saturday.
A feature of last weekend’s clash with New Zealand was the way Scotland twice came close to releasing winger Sean Lamont with carefully placed re-start kicks.
On one occasion, Lamont was judged to have made the catch a fraction of a second before the ball had travelled the requisite ten metres, and on another, Greig Laidlaw’s floated a kick a few inches beyond him.
The signs, however, were there that Scotland had found a way of using the winger’s aerial skills – even if they intend not kicking off more than once! – and while acknowledging that Sunday’s ploys are now in the public domain, full-back Hogg insisted the cupboard is far from bare.
“We practised that kick-off ploy a lot. Sean is a big guy who is good in the air and there was a perfect opportunity to try to put him into space. Obviously that restart will now have been noted but we will have a couple of bits and pieces, various options, up our sleeve for South Africa.
“If they put somebody out wide on Sean and it is a one-on-one situation then I back our man to come up with the ball.”
While Lamont was posing a threat with limited opportunities on one wing, Tim Visser confirmed his reputation as a finisher with a try brace on his home debut.
Hogg, who hopes to be able to get more into the game on Saturday and link up with his three-quarters, said: “I’d rather win 3-0 and not score any tries if offered the choice but it is positive that we are getting across the whitewash. Hopefully we’ve started doing that more regularly with Sean on fire and Tim scoring for fun.”
Based on their performance in beating Ireland 16-12, the Springboks might be expected to kick upfield and pressurise more than New Zealand, who were inclined to either boot the ball into space or move possession by hand.
“Kick-chase wise, they didn’t give me a lot to feed off and for myself it was pretty frustrating against New Zealand,” claimed 20-year-old Hogg.
“In those circumstances I need to be mature, play basic rugby and not force things. I maybe tried a bit too hard last weekend and it backfired a little bit.”
Such analysis augurs well and Hogg said of a match where Scotland scored three tries against a top-tier opponent for the first time since 2007: “We’ll be looking at the positives and negatives.
“We look at the negatives to turn them into positives. We were backing off New Zealand far too much, though. We started really well and gave them a fright early doors; they didn’t know what had hit them. Then we want back into our shells a bit, they got a couple of quick-fire tries and it is difficult to stop them from there.”
By contrast with the Murrayfield try-fest, there was only one touchdown in South Africa’s victory in Dublin.
Perhaps inevitably, it came from Ruan Pienaar, the livewire half-back who is one of several Springboks well known to the Scots from playing for Ulster in the RaboDirect PRO12.
While aware of threats across the team, Hogg acknowledged: “Pienaar is a really, really good player who controls a game really well. Hopefully we can have a few digs at him and put him off his game. We certainly need to pick ourselves up and have a go at them to get the autumn series up and running.”