THE good news about South Africa from Scotland’s point of view is that their defeat by Japan, though historic, was not a one-off. The Springboks displayed similar vulnerabilities in losing to Argentina earlier in the year, and are not the formidable opponents they once were.

The bad news is that the South Africans themselves do not share that analysis. Of course those losses hurt - every defeat does - but they are convinced that they got the Japan result out of their system by winning their second Pool B game against Samoa last Saturday. And they are equally convinced that they will prove as much by beating Scotland this Saturday to go back to the top of the pool.

They have had their injury problems, of course, losing captain Jean de Villiers to a broken jaw. But they have also welcomed back key players from injury, notably Eben Etzebeth, the 23-year-old who could not start against Japan because of a calf injury.

Etzebeth only came on for the last ten minutes of that match, too late to affect the outcome. Against Samoa, however, he played from the kick-off to the final whistle, partnering the 38-year-old Victor Matfield for the first 55 minutes, and then teaming up with Lood de Jager.

Although unassertive in conversation, Etzebeth made it plain after the 46-6 victory over the Samoans that he was sure he and his team-mates were back to where the should be, and that the Japan game was fully behind them. “I don’t really know what happened [against Japan],” he said. “It was a lack of discipline, a lack of intensity. “We talked a lot during the week about how we were going to rectify that. We worked on our discipline and our intensity, and I think the guys were much more intense in the Samoa game. Hopefully that is behind us now and we can look forward to the Scotland game.

“We didn’t have an easy week - it was quite a difficult week - but after this result now we can focus on the next game. We’re just looking forward to that game. Luckily we got a win against Samoa and we can be more positive about this following week.

“I think the last performance [is the one] we must look at - is Samoa. Japan is gone now. It’s over now, so let’s focus on our next game, which is Scotland.

“We’ve played them a few times - the last was 2012. So we’re definitely looking forward to Saturday. They’re always a good team to play against. They’ve had a couple of good results in this World Cup so I can’t wait to play against them.

“We’ve already forgotten about Japan. We’re now focused on what we did against Samoa: we’ll have a review of that, then look forward to the next game.”

With Grant Gilchrist now out of the reckoning, Etzebeth seems set to come up against the Gray brothers, Richie and Jonny, at St James’ Park on Saturday. He has played against Richie before, but insisted he was not interested in the virtues or shortcomings of anyone he comes up against.

“I don’t really care about what the opposition brings to the party. We’re just focusing on what we can do and how we can improve our game. We’ll look at them as a team, but not as a bunch of individuals.”

The Springboks have had one of the biggest away supports in the tournament, and Etzebeth hopes they will at least receive the backing of half the crowd against Scotland, despite Newcastle’s proximity to the Border.

“The support so far has been great. Hopefully South Africans turn up for that game. We’ll see. But we always knew it was going to be on neutral ground and the crowd will be 50-50.”