The only difference now is that the soul they are trying to save belongs to Andy Robinson.
The coach is usually dismissive of questions concerning his future, and even last Thursday, the day the Scotland party set off on their long journey to the southern hemisphere, he was stressing the importance of living in the moment. However, he was perfectly happy to take the more long-term view last year when the SRU offered him a contract that would keep him in his job until 2015.
Is it mischievous to suggest that the onerous costs of ending an arrangement that still has three years left to run might have helped to keep him in office after a Six Nations whitewash that extended his sequence of recent results to seven straight defeats? Robinson was given his paymasters' vote of confidence with almost indecent haste after a calamitous performance in Rome two months ago, but their patience would almost certainly be stretched past breaking point were he to return from the South Seas empty-handed.
In the manner of coaches everywhere, Robinson was talking up the strength of the opposition on a mission that will see his Scots open against Australia in Newcastle on June 5, before taking on Fiji in Lautoka on June 16 and Samoa in Apia on June 23. Tough indeed, but the Australia match is one of those asterisk internationals, as the Wallabies will also be playing the first of three matches against Wales a few days later.
Rumours from down under suggest Australia might send out a side against Scotland made up entirely of Queensland Reds and Western Force players – many more of the former than the later – as those two sides will not be involved in Super Rugby action the previous weekend. Australia coach Robbie Deans has been circumspect about his selection strategy, but the one option he is unlikely to plump for is to send out a full-strength side against Scotland (in a modest stadium situated in a rugby backwater) when he has a full Test series against the Grand Slam champions looming.
Should that make things easier for Scotland? In one sense yes, but it also makes the opposition far harder to predict. Moreover, if Deans chooses what is clearly a second-string side, a Scottish defeat would look far worse than a loss to the full team. And rugby history is littered with examples of teams of so-called dirt-trackers who punched well above their weight in similar situations.
The cancellation of a match against what would inevitably have been an understrength NSW Waratahs side has also removed Scotland's one shoo-in victory from the agenda. On top of which, winning on Fijian or Samoan soil is a notoriously difficult task. When Scotland last played a full Test in those parts – against Fiji in 1998 – they were humiliated by a 51-26 defeat after putting in a performance deservedly remembered as one of the worst in Test history.
Small wonder that sides are so reluctant to travel to the islands. In fact, the last side from the Tri Nations or Six Nations to visit Fiji was Italy, who lost in 2006. The last to travel to Samoa was Ireland, in 2003. Disgracefully, New Zealand, who have plundered the Pacific nations for players, have never played a Test in any of the islands. Small wonder that the South Seas players are a fiercely determined lot on the odd occasion one of the old countries graces them with a visit.
Having long struggled to pull sides together, both Fiji and Samoa are likely to be at full strength. The weather forecast isn't too clever, either, with ferocious heat and suffocating humidity.
"It will be pretty hostile," said John Barclay, the Glasgow flanker. "The heat and the humidity will be like nothing any of the boys have ever played in before. I don't think that any of the squad have ever toured there before, although a few were in Australia in 2004."
Barclay, who was first brought into the Scotland squad as a teenager only a few months after that 2004 trip, is still just 25, but he is now one of the most experienced players in the party. Five players – Tim Visser, Tom Brown, Tom Ryder, Ryan Grant and Rob Harley – are uncapped, while another half-dozen are Test toddlers, with fewer than five caps apiece.
"It's different and exciting," mused Barclay. "We've had a disappointing run so it's exciting to have new faces in who haven't perhaps experienced that, players who come in with new enthusiasm having not had to deal with the last few games.
"Those guys are really excited to be here, which picks everyone up. At the same time, all the guys who played in the Six Nations want to make amends and have a good tour as well."
For his part, Barclay has an interesting agenda of his own. Having virtually owned the Scotland No 7 jersey for the previous four years, he surrendered it to Ross Rennie at the start of the Six Nations – he had already lost his Glasgow openside position to Chris Fusaro – and ended up being pressed into service on the blindside flank.
Was his nose out of joint as a result? "I think so," Barclay replied. "If I wasn't annoyed I shouldn't really be playing. That's my position and that's where I want to play.
"But I understand the nature of the game is that if someone comes in and plays well, like Ross did and like Chris did at Glasgow when I was at the World Cup, you pick the guys that are playing well."