Why are South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia so good? Partly, to be sure, because they have teams full of men who revel in tackling, which was not the case with Saturday's version of the Glasgow Caledonia rugby team.

I have watched them twice only, this game and the match with Richmond, and their worst skill is the art of putting an opponent backwards on his backside, and nowhere is that skill more absent than in the tight five of the scrum.

Somehow, Derek Stark summed up this perplexing game which was, on paper, between one half of our best domestic players and a newly promoted English club.

Stark has never been one for the physical contact, and that is the way it looked for half of the home-based team for a raft of the match, and then he erupted on to two passes and the game was nearly won.

Having played for Glasgow after a morning flight to London, I know just how hard it is to get yourself up for a game in the afternoon, but Stark and his team must know that their tackling was pathetic, the ball they produced was too slow, they lacked penetration in midfield, and there were few men, Gordon Simpson, Glenn Metcalfe, and Fraser Sott aside, who seemed to be able to make ground in the same way as their opponents.

In fact it was only when the hosts had substituted most of their top players for youngsters late in the second half, which coincided with the likes of Rowen Shepherd clearly feeling enough was enough and having a go, that the Scottish-based team got them selves into a position where they could ensure that the scoreline flattered them. That was despite romping to a 15-7 lead at half-time.

I could see Kenny Logan and Damian Cronin, watching from the touchline, looking on in disbelief as London Scottish looked clearly the stronger, more physical side.

Metcalfe, at times, looked on a different level, but, really, this side needs some hard work put in. Our lads were far too tame in contact.

Tommy Hayes started the scoring with a penalty before the ever industrious and combative Fraser Stott tapped a quick penalty for Stuart Grimes to barge over. However, then a sign of what was to come loomed alarmingly in the shape of second-rower Mike Watson, who waltzed through some appalling attempts to haul him down for a try that beggared belief.

Stott then scrambled up the right touchline and reacted to Metcalfe's screams for the ball, and the full back turned on the after-burners from halfway for the lead at the break.

Then London Scottish ran in three, yes three, tries. An overlap on the right was enough for Kenny Milligan. Mike Watson ran straight through weak arms after Paul Johnstone's break, McAusland then banged over a penalty as the public address system blasted out: ''It's all too beautiful,'' and the home side's scoring ended with Guy Manson-Bishop crashing over.

By this stage, Scottish had taken eight of their players from the field, Glasgow Caledonians played with urgency, and an Ian Jardine break was supported by Stark for the first of his two tries.

A beautiful Shepherd break forged the second and last.

Should we be more charitable and say that if Glasgow play with the same tempo they showed in the closing stages, they will do well? Certainly we should, but they have to change their attitude to things physical as well, most especially with relevance to the art of aggressive defence up front.

London Scottish: I McAusland, K Milligan (J Turnbull 70), R Davies, J Bonney, I McIntyre (E Ramage 42), J Cameron (S Binns 30), G Easterby, P Johnstone (R Bijl 65), D Cummins, P Burnell (C Johnstone 49), E Jones, M Watson( M McAtamney 48), S Fenn (T Davies 38), C Tarbuck (G Manson-Bishop 59), R Hunter.

Glasgow Caledonians: G Metcalfe, S Longstaff (A Bulloch 21), R Shepherd, I Jardine, D Stark, T Hayes (C Simmers 30), F Stott, T Smith (G McIlwham 65), K McKenzie, W Anderson (A Kittle 56), S Grimes, S Campbell, J White, G Simpson, G MacKay (G Flockhart 56).

q Three Premiership 1 sides - Melrose, West of Scotland, and Glasgow Hawks - put their early season public face forward on Saturday with differing responses thereafter from their coaches.

Gel Tait was in bullish mood after Melrose had beaten Peebles 84-0 in a Border League match. ''We kept the tempo up and showed team commitment. The performance was a credit to the lads and augurs well,'' he said.

Melrose led 55-0 at the turn and scored 14 tries. Kiwi newcomer Karl Thomson had one of them and kicked two conversions. He said: ''I was happy to get the first game over as I wasn't sure what the level would be. We can build on this.''

The other try-scorers were Steven Laurie (3) Scott Nichol (2), Stuart Thom (2), Will Lawrie, Millan Browne, David Graham, Alex Clark, Paul Wilson, and Scott Ruthven.

West and Glasgow Hawks met at Burnbrae. West led by 14-10 and then 21-10, but in the final third, Hawks put on a strong line-up and ran out 36-21 winners with trademark crisp handling to the fore.

West coach Brian Edwards commented: ''Teams like ourselves and Hawks, who have lost a lot of players, will take some time to patch things together. Sides less affected, such as Heriot's, will have an early advantage.

''However, I saw good signs today. Prop Donny Gibb showed up in the loose, creating our second try, and new centre Ian McInroy looks promising.''

Hawks chief coach Ian Russell also was wary of the early season. ''It's difficult to build from the bottom up again. It's team spirit as much as talent that will allow us again to play exciting rugby,'' he said.

Hawks created an early lead with a brace of tries from Murray Wallace before West hit back with tries from Mark Pope and Richie Craig, who converted both. Scrum half Allan Hogarth dodged over himself.