South Africa may have climbed to second place in the world rankings at the weekend while Scotland's place outside the top eight may have been confirmed, but the coach of the Springboks claimed their hosts this weekend are "a great side" as he pondered the coming challenge.

Heyneke Meyer, who took charge this year, claimed he was not engaging in a PR exercise when asked to assess what he had seen at the weekend but the nature of his praise seemed somewhat out of proportion to Scotland's current status.

"I believe Scotland is a quality side," he said of a side that has lost eight of its last 11 Tests. "They are very, very dangerous and want to keep the ball in hand and the scoreline probably doesn't show how close it was. It was 10 minutes of brilliance from the All Blacks when they put together 20 points but other than that Scotland were always in the game.

Loading article content

"The one thing that stood out for me was that they scored three tries. If you look at the whole season, the likes of Australia and ourselves have struggled to score tries against the All Blacks. We've both scored one try in each Test match and then Ireland couldn't score any points in their final Test against New Zealand. So they scored three tries and were probably unlucky not to have one or two more. I think the Scottish team is a great team. Obviously, the All Blacks are the best team in the world now so I thought they played well."

Failure to beat South Africa on Saturday will leave Scotland's chances of finishing among the top eight seeds for the next World Cup in the hands of the team who effectively knocked them out of the last one.

Argentina's imposing win over Wales on Saturday has pretty much taken them beyond Scotland's reach unless Scotland beat the Springboks but, if that does not happen, Ireland could still be overhauled if they lose to the Pumas.

What offers Scotland some hope is not only that they managed to register those three tries on Sunday, but that the Springboks struggled to subdue an Ireland team that was minus most of its leading lights in Dublin.

Meyer again sought to strike the right note when saying he did not want to be seen as making excuses before acknowledging that there is an element of transition in his squad with injuries having compounded the fact that South Africa lost so many players after the World Cup.

The latest problem to afflict his side is the health scare suffered by Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira, their tighthead prop who withdrew from the Ireland match complaining of heart palpitations.

The Springboks team doctor yesterday reported that the 27-year-old has now been sent home to undergo remedial work on a long-standing condition which is neither life- nor career-threatening but is understandably proving to be a considerable distraction. Their only other injury worry is Saturday's starting tighthead, Jannie Du Plessis who "rolled his ankle" but he is recovering well, while Guthro Steenkamp, the Toulouse prop who missed the match against Ireland because of a rib injury, is expected to be fit.

Meyer suggested he is considering resting tour captain Jean de Villiers as he seeks to fit Juan de Jongh into his midfield, but said his respect for Scotland is such that he will otherwise minimise changes to his side which, in turn, means that after a difficult day in Dublin, Pat Lambie can expect another run at stand-off.

"It's important for us to stay focused on the way we want to play and keep our feet on the ground because we know we have to improve and we're looking forward to a great challenge on Saturday," said Meyer.

"For me it's more important to look at what we did wrong. We want to play better than we did in Ireland. We're a young team and we want to improve."