South Africa vs Scotland Prediction and Betting Tips
🏈 Rugby World Cup 2023 Match Preview
⏰ 11 September 2023 - 1:45 AEST
🏟 Stadium - Stade Vélodrome (Marseille)
Regarded as this Rugby World Cup’s (RWC) ‘group of death’, as it contains three of the IRB’s top-five ranked nations, the major question surrounding Pool B is whether the second-ranked team in the world and defending champions South Africa will coast to the quarter-finals, or whether one of the finest Scotland sides could throw a spanner in the works here having proven full value in reaching their all-time best IRB ranking of fifth. Pool B also features the IRB ranking toppers Ireland so one of these teams won’t be progressing to the quarters, since most aren’t considering group minnows Tonga and Romania as much of a threat.
While they’re still hot favourites to qualify for the knockout rounds, not many pundits were backing the Springboks to repeat their 2019 heroics given an inconsistent RWC cycle since that memorable day in Yokohama, but they’ve firmly entered the contenders conversation after handing New Zealand their heaviest ever defeat with a 35-7 win recently. That truly was a marker laid down by the world champs, who’ll have to go about retaining their crown the hard way considering that should they get past Scotland and/or Ireland and progress from Pool B, it is most likely two of the pre-tournament favourites in either the All Blacks or host nation France that lie in wait in the quarters.
The record-sharing three time champions have never before failed to progress to the knockout rounds, and have never lost a RWC final when making it to the tournament's finale. They have had a tendency to start slow, however, having lost their opening RWC matches in both 2015 and 2019, a habit with potentially dire consequences in 2023 should it continue. In order to get off on the right foot, coach Jacques Nienaber has selected a settled side totalling a mammoth 815 caps in the starting XV. That tally could’ve been higher considering Jasper Wiese (23 caps) got the nod in the line up over Duane Vermeulen (71 caps) at eighth man, while in the backline Kurt-Lee Arendse (ten caps) ousted Makazole Mapimpi for the number 11 jersey and Damian Willemse (33 caps) starts at fullback instead of the veteran Willie le Roux (88 caps).
In order to counteract that and embark on a mission to replicate their 2007 RWC triumph on French soil, coach Jacques Nienaber has employed a starting XV boasting a similarly incredible 815 caps. The usual front-row suspects of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, and Frans Malherbe will be supported by second-rowers Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, while captain Siya Kolisi will team up with fellow flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and eighth-man Jasper Wiese to round out the pack. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk will earn his 50th cap and his experience should aid in settling Manie Libbok into his new role of first-choice Springbok flyhalf, who has 135 caps worth of centres in Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel to lean on if need be. The wings are governed by try scoring machines Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse, while the only ‘surprise’ pick sees Damian Willemse get the nod at fullback over Willie le Roux.
Scotland have come in leaps and bounds since their disappointing failure to make it out of the pool stages in 2019, rising from eighth in the world when the 2023 RWC draw was made, to an aforementioned all-time high of fifth. Prior to that in 2015, they suffered a controversial and heart-breaking 35-34 quarter-final loss to Australia, and given their presence in this ‘group of death’ and the subsequent lopsidedness of the draw, competing with their best ever RWC placing of fourth in 1991 would be a massive achievement for Gregor Townsend and his troops.
That won’t stop the Bravehearts from giving it their all, and if anything they have the taste of victory fresh on their tongues after winning four of their last five matches, although that includes two wins against Italy, a victory over an experimental French outfit, and an eventual run-away win over Georgia. Still, they have to start somewhere, and considering the Springboks’ slow starts the last two World Cups coupled with Scotland having faced Georgia and France in their RWC warm-ups, two teams known for their strength in the forwards, they might be best prepared to put all their chips into this basket in order to ruffle some feathers in Pool B.
The H2H intricacies between these two are truly fascinating if one zooms out and looks in. Their record against fellow Tier 1 nations in a RWC setting couldn’t be more different, with South Africa winning 16 of their 22 such battles (L6), while the Scots have only won two of 19 (D1, L16). Looking at their opponents’ closest foes, the Bravehearts have lost all 11 of their RWC fixtures against teams from the Rugby Championship, contrary to the Springboks who’ve won 11 of 12 RWC matches (L1) against Six Nations participants, including victories over Scotland in the 1999 and 2015 pool stages. That forms part of a dominant history for the Springboks who have won 23 of the previous 28 encounters (L5), and this would not be the time for them to deviate from that norm.
📋 Players to watch: For all the Springboks pressure in the forwards, it's their nifty winger Kurt-Lee Arendse who possibly poses the biggest try-scoring threat, having touched down 11 times in his last nine test matches. Arendse’s direct opposition features the South African in Scotland’s ranks Duhan van der Merwe, who has also been on fire with four tries in his last four internationals.
⚡ Hot stat:
- The second half has been the higher scoring of the two halves in 15 of South Africa’s last 19 test matches.
- This match takes place in Pool B, dubbed the 'pool of death' with 3 top ranked teams.
- South Africa are the defending World Cup champions from 2019. They start as favorites.
- Scotland are ranked 5th in the world, their highest ever position. This is their best team.
- The teams have met 28 times before with South Africa winning 23 times.
- However, Scotland did beat South Africa 30-15 in their last meeting in November 2021.
- South Africa beat New Zealand 35-23 in their last match before the World Cup, laying down a marker.
- Coach Jacques Nienaber has named a very experienced Springboks XV with 815 caps.
- Scotland are coached by Gregor Townsend and are in good recent form with 4 wins from 5.
- Scotland have never beaten a team from the Rugby Championship at a World Cup.
- The match is being played at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, France.
- Defence and set piece will likely decide this arm wrestle contest between two physical teams.
💡 Match Prediction:
This should be a tight contest between two quality sides. South Africa are defending champions and have a home advantage which I expect to help them edge out a win by around 8 points. Scotland are improving but the Springboks have too much physicality.
With both teams having strong defences, taking under 41.5 points looks good value for a lower-scoring affair. The late-match try-scoring prowess of Kurt-Lee Arendse makes him a strong bet to score anytime. Overall, backing South Africa to grind out a close 1-12 point win is the safest wager.
- South Africa to win
- South Africa by 8 points
- Final score: South Africa 25 - Scotland 17
- South Africa to win by 1-12 points at odds of $2.20
- Under 41.5 total match points at odds of $1.91
- Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa) anytime try-scorer at odds of $1.80
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