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Scotland going the extra mile to foster momentum under Cotter

NOW comes the hard part.

Tommy Seymour has taken his chance to impress new coach Vern Cotter, setting up two tries against Argentina. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Tommy Seymour has taken his chance to impress new coach Vern Cotter, setting up two tries against Argentina. Picture: Stewart Attwood

After four flights, spanning about 12,000 miles and lasting 37 hours, Scotland will take on the team ranked second in the world in their own backyard and which are coming off a series win over Wales. It really does not get much tougher.

By the time the Scotland players arrive in South Africa later today, they will have been in transit for about 2½ days. They then have four days to get over all that travelling and the five-hour time difference, and put in place the necessary training to correct the numerous mistakes which nearly cost them dearly against Argentina and lay the groundwork to challenge South Africa.

The challenges do not end there either. This is the match which forced the Scottish Rugby Union to the split the tour, with the Exiles in England and France prevented from playing as the match falls outside the official window when clubs have to release their players to their respective national sides.

Both teams are affected but South Africa have lost only seven players from their training squad - and have far greater resources anyway - while Scotland are without 15. They are having to go so far down the pecking order that Adam Ashe, the Glasgow Warriors back-row who has made only one appearance off the bench all season, is in line to become the third player in a year make his Scotland debut before he has started in a game for his club.

Is that worrying the players? According to them: no. After three wins from three starts under Vern Cotter, the Scotland squad feel that things are going their way.

After all, he first stage of any side's development is just to win. Then, with the confidence that begets, they can start wondering about style and how to beat higher-ranked sides.

"There is a lot of positivity," said Tommy Seymour, who set up both of Scotland's tries against Argentina. "The second group arrived in the third week of the tour with the boys having managed two really hard-fought wins against North American sides that threw everything at them to try to turn them over. They were two great wins and we had to keep the momentum up [against Argentina].

"There is pressure but also excitement. All the guys coming in are clamouring to play and are aiming to prove a point for themselves."

The tries against Argentina were built in Glasgow, Seymour creating both with powerful surges down the touchline and then timing his passes to perfection to lay on the scores. In both cases, though, he was anxious to give as much credit to the players beside him who offered support and made sure he knew what was going on, even it if did lead to a certain amount of inter-club banter.

"You will often find yourself in a position in open-field running where you need to draw the last tackler and put people away," said Seymour. "Credit to the guys who finished because their support lines were excellent and they made it really easy for me; the communication was brilliant. Your first instinct is to try to get to the line, it is almost part of the job title, but I had to make sure we got the tries no matter where they came from.

"In the first one, [Stuart] Hogg was loud and clear. I could hear there was a defender coming across and that is why I tried to draw him in and luckily managed to get the ball away before he knocked me into touch. Hoggy was screaming and basically giving me a play-by-play as I was running.

"For the second, Henry [Pyrgos] and Nick [De Luca] were both there. Nick has accused me of a bit of Glasgow bias: I can assure you it wasn't; it was about making sure the pass went to hand. The coaches hammer the point: you support, you support and you support. Make sure you get in the right position for the pass. That is what he did."

It was an important game for Seymour, who knew that Tim Visser had been given the chance to impress Vern Cotter, the new Scotland coach, initially and he came through with flying colours. Seymour does not have his rival's strike rate but does offer more in general play - better defence, greater security under the high ball and an unselfish attitude when it comes to balancing the roles of creator and finisher.

"It was nice to get back our there, get a game under my belt and another Scotland shirt," he said. "It is always an honour to go out and do it and to come out to Cordoba - the weather was brilliant, the pitch was great, the ball was dry - and putting in a good win was fantastic.

"We have ground out an incredibly hard-fought win. It gives us a lot of heart to go to South Africa with a positive attitude."

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