Tales of the expected and unexpected at World Cup

Stuart Hogg in action against South Africa
Stuart Hogg in action against South Africa

With England the first of the home nations to make an exit, there’s a real chance that the other three countries including Scotland can progress to the quarter-finals.

Scotland’s loss to South Africa was disappointing if not totally unexpected.

South Africa have been out to repair the damage of a defeat to Japan and a wounded ‘Bok is difficult to beat!

Once again our first half was not good and needs to be addressed. Why we have failed to start well is a puzzle, but our second period has been a lot better.

But scoring 33 points and five tries in the second half as we did against both Japan and the USA was never going to be repeated against South Africa and their fly-half, Handre Pollard, was in fine form with the boot and controlling the game.

People have been talking about the good mood within the Scotland camp and how the players and staff are all enjoying their World Cup with plenty of confidence and ambition.

It was a surprise therefore to see the press conference held by coach Vern Cotter before the South African game. It was the first time he found it a challenge answering questions from the media. First up was a question relating to how he came to pick that team to start the match against the Springoks.

This was a routine question with no hidden agenda – a question that is usually trotted out at the start of a conference, but Vern was ruffled by it, and there was certainly a tense atmosphere in the room after that, which was a surprise from the man known for being cool and calm.

No one really got to the bottom of that one but on the park the Scottish team showed in parts that they were capable of taking on the power of the mighty former World Champions.

Make no mistake, we were never really in contention to win the game, but we are still in a good place and it will be a major surprise (based on what we’ve seen with Samoa to date) if we don’t cruise past them to take our place in the quarter finals.

We have a good record against Samoa and whatever team is selected by Cotter should be too strong for the Pacific Islanders.

Kelso hooker Ross Ford failed an in-game HIA (head injury assessment) meaning he will now follow the graduated return-to-play protocol while Hawick’s Stuart Hogg left the field of play having suffered cramp to his legs and lower back, he is not considered an immediate concern.