Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg will make history today when he starts at full-back in an international match for the 87th time [85 for Scotland and twice for the Lions] against South Africa this afternoon, overtaking the previous world record held by Rob Kearney [84 times for Ireland and twice for the Lions].

It is another impressive accolade achieved in a superb career which still has three or four seasons to run, but the 29-year-old was in no mood to sit back and marvel at his own excellence yesterday.  

Appearances are a great thing for one of the proudest Scotsmen to have ever pulled on the dark blue jersey, but the number of significant wins picked up will be the real barometer of what he has achieved when the curtain finally comes down on his playing days.

And having led his team to three major scalps already in this calendar year – against England and France away during the Six Nations, and the Australia at home last Sunday – Hogg is getting a taste for being on the right side of the scoreline in big matches. 

South Africa this afternoon would be the biggest yet, and Hogg clearly feels the hand of history on his shoulder. Scotland have not beaten the Springboks since 2010, and he has played in four of the six defeats suffered during the intervening years, so it feels like it is now or never for the Hawick man. 

“For me, as a rugby player, you often think we are just here to play rugby, but we are not,” he said. “I remember as a kid being inspired by the players coming to do training sessions with us. We had Nikki Walker, who was from my hometown of Hawick and scored the winning try when Scotland beat South Africa in 2002, coming to do sessions with my mini rugby team, and I absolutely loved it.  

“These were the boys I looked up to, and to now be in a position to inspire the next generation is massive.  

“We are in a great position at the moment, and if we continue winning then more people are going to hopefully pick up a rugby ball, and hopefully we can help grow the game. 

“So, we have to believe in ourselves as individuals and as a collective and relish this fantastic opportunity that has come our way. We understand how big a challenge it is going to be but to be the best you have got to beat the best.  

“For us, we don’t get many opportunities to play the world champions, we don’t get many opportunities in rugby to finish off tries against the top teams.  

“We believe we are more than capable of knocking over the best teams in the world. They have some huge threats around the tackle contest, around their defensive line-speed and in their kicking game – so we are excited about taking that on.” 

There is never much of a mystery about what is on the menu when you take on South Africa, but Scotland’s gritty performance against Australia last weekend suggests that the team is better equipped now than at any time in at least the last decade to deal with the huge physical challenge which is coming their way. 

“We have some big boys that can hit hard both sides of the ball as well,” reasoned Hogg. “Rugby has been the same forever. You need to get go forward, be dominant up-front and be in a position to get over the advantage line to keep everything moving smoothly.  

“We have all played against South Africans at some stage in our careers, so we know that they are big angry men that want to try and dominate you physically. It is game-plan that works for them, and they are world champions for a reason. 

“They have talked a lot about their physicality this week and it is a massive strength of theirs, but there will be massive opportunities within it as well. We have to stay calm and composed and make the most of the opportunities given.” 

Meanwhile, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi confirmed that his side will stick to what they do best this weekend. 

“We definitely come in with the mindset that we’ve always had with our physicality – we never hide away from that,” he said. “Every single team knows what we bring to the game. Whether it’s going to work or not is all going to depend on how we set out tomorrow, our attitude and our mental state.  

“It’s easy to do it for a couple of minutes and people normally stick with you – but to do it for 80 minutes consistently is what matters the most.  We’re not changing anything. We’re coming in with the mentality and the game-plan we have and hopefully it will work tomorrow. 

“I definitely do think they are the strongest Scotland side during my time playing international rugby,” he added. “They play without fear which is great so I'm looking forward to that.”