Scotland captain Mike Blair believes facing South Africa will be even tougher than taking on the All Blacks.

And he reckons their line-up here on Saturday will be stronger than the one that beat England in the World Cup Final in Paris a year ago.

But in this year’s Tri-Nations the Springboks lost four of their six matches. However, they come to Murrayfield having seen off Wales 20-15 in Cardiff last week.

“They are a team of exceptional quality,” Blair said. “The way they performed in the opening 15 minutes against Wales was brilliant.

“The type of challenge we face will be very different. The way they use the blitz defence means they are right up in your face and it will be important how we manage the game,” the scrum-half added.

Not that South Africa coach Peter de Villiers is taking anything for granted.

He said he was impressed by the power and commitment of the Scots in spite of the way they conceded four tries, without scoring any of their own, during a 32-6 defeat by New Zealand at Murrayfield last weekend.

And he was far from happy with the way in which his team let Wales back into a Millennium Stadium match that the Springboks had dominated early on.

“Scotland were actually in the game for most of the match and you don’t come here expecting the opposition to lie down to you,” de Villiers said.

“We got our warning from Wales and the guys are starting to get into the tour now.

“I have been reading a lot about Scotland and the thistle, where it comes from and what it stands for.

“I feel Scotland are a proud nation and they will stand up for themselves. They won’t go down without a fight. We will have our work cut out. We don’t look down on anyone.”
Much is at stake for Blair and his team-mates because defeat will send them sliding out of the top-eight in the official global rankings.

The upshot of that is a poorer seeding in next month’s draw for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand – and the certainty of knowing they will be in a group featuring two nations rated above them.

Such a scenario would clearly endanger Scotland’s record of having reached the quarter-finals of every World Cup.

Saturday’s match will see South Africa captain John Smit equal the record for appearances by a Springbok forward. Smit will be winning his 80th cap, putting him level with front-row great Os du Randt.

“It is a very humbling achievement for me to be equalling a record set by Os, who I see as a real legend of the South African game,” Smit told

“No matter what happens from now, I think Os will always be the legend of South African rugby.

“I am very humbled to be sharing a record that he has set,” added Smit, who as he did against Wales, will be playing at tighthead prop rather than in his usual hooking position to accommodate Bismarck du Plessis.

Meanwhile de Villiers is keen to guide the Springboks to a victory which he hopes will be heart-warming in more ways than one.

The Springbok coach has made no secret of his struggle to fend off the vagaries of the late autumn climate in Edinburgh.

“I have never felt so cold in my life,” he chuckled at the end of a training session in the city. “But I suppose it will all be worth it if we can get the result we are looking for at the weekend.”