THERE are no prizes at stake in the Autumn Nations Series. No final to qualify for; no medals to be won. 

Yet for all that it is not so much a tournament as a group of individual matches which have been bundled together for marketing purposes, the results of those matches taken as a whole still matter a lot to the competing countries. And as far as Scotland is concerned, whether this year’s series is deemed a success or failure will depend on the outcome of Saturday’s last game of the year, against Japan at BT Murrayfield.

The win against Tonga and the loss to South Africa were par for the course, while the victory against Australia was a significant positive. A loss to Japan would negate the progress made against the Wallabies, but a victory would make it a satisfactory three wins out of four.

Having lost to the Japanese at the 2019 World Cup, Scotland will not underestimate their opponents, especially after so many things went wrong against the Springboks. But Gregor Townsend, for one, believes that those problems can be sorted out quickly.

“Very fixable,” was the head coach’s verdict when asked about those problems. “You’re going to get different pressure from different teams. The game is not just about you and what you can do with your game plan, it’s about how you can react to what the opposition are doing, and in the second half the Springboks performed their roles really well and we didn’t. 

“But there was a lot to take from that first half, whether it was our defence, whether it was our kicking game, whether it was the speed we got into play, our contact area and our lineout. And if we had kept that up it could have been a different story.”

Townsend also implied it could have been a slightly different story if referee Angus Gardner had listened to his assistants more often, but accepted that Scotland only had themselves to blame for some of their problems. “Our scrum wasn’t good enough throughout the 80 minutes,” he continued. “At times it looked good and at times the assistant referee was shouting ‘Green, green!’ but the referee didn’t seem to hear him. But we know at times that South Africa had the upper hand at the scrum.

“We’ll look back at that second half and obviously say we didn’t win enough lineout. So that’s for all of us - players and coaches - to do a better job next time.”