Sean Lamont has lifted the lid on one of the major controversies of the rugby year in revealing that for the second time in 17 matches French referee Romain Poite was obliged to apologise to Scotland for wrong decisions.
As the latest viagogo Autumn Test series looms at Murrayfield on Saturday with a visit from Japan, the 32-year-old threequarter was keen to stress the positives of a summer tour and particularly an upbeat performance against the Springboks at the Mbombola Stadium, Nelspruit, that has surely set a benchmark.
Then, the Scots opened up a healthy lead, only for Jim Hamilton to be yellow-carded for an innocuous push, allowing the Boks to pile on ten points and transform the game.
“Jim got the yellow card but he also got the apology from the ref later on saying he should never have yellow carded him looking back,” said Lamont.
“Things like that do swing it and when you are playing South Africa, New Zealand or Australia it is tough enough with 15 players on the park. Fair play to the ref for holding his hands up but at the same time it is was kick in the ass for us.”
Few outwith the Scotland camp will be aware of Poite’s apology; even fewer will know he was also the referee who owned up to a mistake involving debutant Scotland full back Stuart Hogg just over 12 months earlier.
Recalled Lamont: “In Wales when Hoggy got his “try” disallowed the ref came back and said it should have been a try.
“It’s all very well saying it after the game but at the time it [the decision] was a game- changer.”
Clearly the aim is always for Scotland to put matters beyond dispute, although Lamont does not expect the type of one-sided contest he experienced early in his career against the men from the land of the rising sun.
“I played in the 2004 match at McDiarmid Park, Perth, when we won 100-6 and it still haunts me a bit.
“All those points scored and I wasn’t on the try sheet until I managed to sneak a late one in the 78th minute.
“As a winger I was standing there thinking 100 odd points and me not getting one . . . until I found a way.
“What it’s important to realise, though, is that Japan have come on massively since then and I base that partly on what they did by beating Wales (without British and Irish Lions) during the summer while they were competitive against New Zealand (6-54) only a few days ago.
“Rugby has grown in Japan and there are lot of All Blacks now going there to play. We’ve watched them and they have a lot of quick guys and also some big guys now.
“They’ll be well disciplined, too, because that is their culture. Besides, we are in no place to think we can turn up and win especially as we have history of being poor first game up in the Autumn.
“That is a major hurdle for us to overcome. We’ve got to be switched on because Saturday’s game is not a gimme by any means.
“Our biggest issue has always been consistency. We can get up for the big teams but against smaller teams we don’t fire as much. Clearly, it’s not a physical thing, more of a mental thing.
“The mental thing is difficult and down to the individual player. We are a good team, but not that good we can just rock up. We have to be our best every time we take the field.”
Lamont was also part of a Scotland XV who beat a Japanese Select 24-10 at Murrayfield in June, 2010, although no caps were awarded so his total stands at 79.
However, the Glasgow Warrior has every intention of trying to at least reach the 100 mark before he hangs up his boots.
Again he revealed: “I’ve set myself the target of being around to play in a third World Cup in 2015.
“There are 24 matches between now and then and I suppose if I get to the World Cup my next target would be to keep going.
“At the same time I’d want the next winger to be snapping at my heels and I’m benefitting from being part of a club team where one bad game can mean you are out.
“If I am still around after the next World Cup I’ll be happy, but part of me will be concerned that there is obviously something missing from development.
“What drives me as much as anything though is that I am a terrible spectator who hates missing games if I don’t have to.
“For the moment nine years after my first cap and having been around the block I’m still feeling really good in the physical conditioning side of things.
“I am as fast as ever and my fitness is up there as well while there is a boost that comes from being part of a winning club team.”