IT was on April 15, 1967 that Scotland became the world football champions. What do you mean, I must have missed that…

It was a great day at Wembley, goals from Denis Law, Bobby Lennox and Jim McCalliog against two by Jack Charlton and Geoff Hurst giving Scotland an unforgettable 3-2 victory and the title of champions of the world. It stood to reason – Scotland had just beaten the world champions, so that made us the top dogs in world football, didn’t it?

The theory was that if you beat the world champion or champions in any sport then you inherit the title of world champion or champions. At least unofficially.  

Believe it or not, there are people out there who maintain Unofficial Football World Championship tables, and freelance journalist Paul Brown cornered the market on the subject several years ago when he wrote a book about it.

Our football loving fellow Scots will be delighted to know that the champions of the Unofficial Football World Championship league table are none other than Scotland having won 86 of the 149 matches they have played in unofficial world championship encounters. England are second with 73 wins in 146 matches.

It was that 1967 match at Wembley which gave rise to the Unofficial World Championship, and how the Scottish supporters relished that title.

On Saturday, Scotland will play the real world champions of rugby, but coincidentally, right now the holders of the Unofficial World Rugby Championship are also South Africa. That’s because the British and Irish Lions had been the Unofficial World Champions after they beat previous holders New Zealand in 2017, and the Lions the lost their title to South Africa during the summer. 

Australia took the unofficial title off the Springboks during the Rugby Championship, only for the Wallabies to lose it to the All Blacks. But in that brilliantly thrilling conclusion to the Championship, South Africa won back the Unofficial world title to add to their official one.

So as if they needed any other incentive, if Scotland beat South Africa at Murrayfield, the men in dark blue can claim to be the champions of the world – unofficially of course.

Being to tipstering what Boris Johnson is to integrity, I will not saddle the Scots with being my selection when I visit the bookmakers before the match. Instead I will earnestly utter the quiet hope that they can beat the Springboks.

We all know that Scotland have the players to win any match but what impressed me with Sunday’s performance against the Wallabies was the maturity the squad showed. To suffer the loss of hooker George Turner so early on would have rendered previous Scottish teams hapless, not least because Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally were not on the bench. Ewan Ashman was, and apart from his amazing try, the debutant hooker also slotted right into a front row which, over the piece, were superior to their opposite numbers. If they keep their place, Ashman and props Pierre Schoeman and Zander Fagerson will face the examination of their lives from a South African front row which yields to no one – but they can win.

HeraldScotland: Scotland players celebrate with the Hopetoun CupScotland players celebrate with the Hopetoun Cup

I wrote last week that if Michael Hooper won the breakdowns, Australia would win the game. He won a lot of ball, but so did the Scottish back row and there was no clear winner in that crucial contest, while the Scottish front five did their job almost faultlessly and won enough ball to allow the Scottish backs to attack.                      

 South Africa already know that Scotland will attempt to attack them with ball in hand so you can bet that they will have a game plan to deal with that tactic. That’s why I am suggesting that Gregor Townsend might want to vary the plan a little and encourage the backs to move the ball wide and fast at every opportunity, because Scotland have the wingers to win any game, just as South Africa have.  Wouldn’t it be great to see the ball flying along both back lines?

We need to see Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg at their dynamic best, and above all we need every Scot on the field to be ready to defend from first whistle to last. For while I have no doubt about Scotland in attacking mode, I have also seen in South Africa’s recent performances that they want to play an all-out attacking game, too, and that means tackling like furies.

In the end it will probably come down to the error and indiscipline count and in that regard Scotland need to be careful with this year’s World Rugby instruction to referees to crack down on offside in front of kicks. Scotland were perilously close to breaking that law a couple of times on Saturday and it would be tragic if South Africa were to win by scoring penalties awarded for technical infringements.

Above all Scotland must have a real go at beating the Boks. Unofficial world champions? I’ll take that.