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Kelly Brown ready for a very different Test against the Springboks

Talking to some of South Africa's Springboks in their own language may be one thing, but Kelly Brown knows that taking them on at their own game will be a much bigger challenge as he leads Scotland into action at Murrayfield tomorrow.

Kelly Brown believes his side have learned the lessons from their heavy defeat by New Zealand. Picture: SNS
Kelly Brown believes his side have learned the lessons from their heavy defeat by New Zealand. Picture: SNS

Having undergone a baptism of fire as a new captain when having to confront a New Zealand side inspired by two of the sport's greatest players in Richie McCaw and Dan Carter on Sunday, the Scot knows that very different questions will be asked of his side tomorrow.

They will inevitably be put to them in the most direct fashion. However, having spent more than two years in the burgeoning South African colony that is Saracens RFC – where Springbok World Cup winning captain John Smit, and Schalk Brits, Neil de Kock, Justin Melck, Ernst Joubert, Nick Fenton-Wells and Alistair Hargreaves ply their trade – Brown could hardly be better prepared.

"I've learned a little bit of Afrikaans so if I get the chance to use them I'll say what I can say. Unfortunately it's mainly swear words but that could be perfect," said Brown with a smile yesterday.

He hopes not to be directing them towards the opponent he knows best, though, Springboks replacement hooker Brits being his only clubmate in their 23-man squad this weekend. "He's an incredible player and as a friend I would love him to play because I know what it means to him to play for the Springboks," he said. "He's not done it in a long time, but as an opponent I hope he stays in his sub-suit."

As to the wider challenge, Brown acknowledged that he has not had to spend all that time among South Africans to be fully aware of what is coming, even if they have opted to extend the range of options available to them by throwing the nimble Juan de Jongh into the mix. "I played against them quite a few times in the past and they've got a very, very good kicking game, they're very, very physical and I would also say they've got quite a few smart starter plays that they will use to put us under quite a bit of pressure," he said.

"We all know what their main strengths are but, as with all sides, they're looking to expand that and to pose more threats and I've no doubt they will look to take us on up front. But also when it's on they will look to move it as any side would. So while we're expecting a really physical challenge we're also aware that they will look to play."

In saying that Brown knows that Scotland find themselves in the unusual position of out-weighing South Africa both in the forwards and the backs. Yet that does not automatically mean being able to give the Springboks a taste of their own medicine.

"I don't think it's a case of being a bully, I think it's a case of being as physical as you possibly can and just standing up to the challenge," said Brown.

The Scotland captain cannot be seen to be drawing satisfaction from Sunday's experience against the All Blacks when his side conceded more than 50 points, but there were still some positives in the performance. "When we played as we wanted to play, when we got our line speed right and when we ran really hard we can cause any side problems," he said. "It's up to us to make sure that we don't suffer these little lapses of concentration that New Zealand were very good at capitalising on.

"We watched it back and at times we were very good, but we need to keep that level of performance up for the full 80 minutes. We were expecting a very tough Test match and it showed that if you sit off and let the best side in the world play they are going to punish you, but in saying that it was a first match, we've learned a lot and we'll look to take what we've learned forward into what will be another incredibly tough Test match on Saturday."

Regardless of the outcome, Sunday was always going to be a historic day for Brown as he led his country for the first time and won his 50th cap. "The first five minutes when I was out of the tunnel were certainly pretty special but after that it was just a case of me focusing on my role and on what I could do to help the team," he said. "Things didn't go as we would have liked but I'm fairly sure that we've learned these lessons and that we'll move on."

That role changed in the course of the game and will again this week. Having switched when Ross Rennie was injured early in the first half against the All Blacks, Brown pulled on the No.7 jersey the flanker was wearing when he suffered a dislocated shoulder.

For the most part all that involved was a change of role in the scrum, with Al Strokosch taking over Rennie's lineout duties as Dave Denton's very different attributes were accommodated. But Brown knows that a major part of his job is to convey the right messages to his team-mates.

"Every week I look to focus on slightly different things," he said. "But it's part of my role to make sure that all of the guys know what's expected of them this week, know the challenges facing us this week and also to really help to inspire the boys."

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