McGeechan backs Scots to match Boks
October 1, 1999

Onwards and upwards is the rallying call from Troon as the clock ticks down to Scotland's date with destiny.
The Five Nations champions meet the world champions in their World Cup opener at Murrayfield on Sunday with ``new-boy'' Ian McGeechan convinced the Scots can bridge the class divide separating them from opponents South Africa.
McGeechan, the man who led Scotland to the 1990 Grand Slam and took the British Lions on their historic series win against the Springboks two years ago, has returned north from Northampton to take over from Jim Telfer once the tournament has reached its end.
Officially, McGeechan is currently employed in an advisory capacity only, although that seems to extend to standing on the training ground bellowing instructions to the men who carry a nation's hopes.
The mantra from Scotland's seaside base this week is that a 20% improvement must be made from April's momentous 36-22 victory over France in Paris to have any hope of recording a shock win on Sunday.
Given that display was one of the finest Scotland have ever produced, the task facing the home side is stark.
However, McGeechan believes the present side are still to reach their peak.
``Most of these guys are young enough to be around for a good few years yet,'' said the former Northampton chief.
``You would expect them to keep moving forward season by season.They have immense talent and they have to keep thinking that way.
``Over the past 18 months, Scotland have evolved into a very exciting group of players.
``We have come together again and now it is time to take it on to the next stage.''
The Springboks can hardly have forgotten that it was McGeechan's attention to detail which enabled the Lions to destroy them in 1997.
And a Scottish nation who never need too much of an opportunity to let their hearts rule their head is more than willing to accept that the Telfer-McGeechan partnership will work its miracle once more.
``We have played them twice since then and they hammered us both times, so I don't think what happened with the Lions will have any effect,'' said McGeechan.
``The British Lions is a one-off lasting eight weeks. Nurturing an international side is a longer term development process.
``It is a different group of players with different strengths and we have to prove we are capable of matching the world champions.''
While top-flight international rugby is second nature to McGeechan, it is still something full-back Metcalfe is getting used to.
The Auckland-born star is one of the quartet of kilted-Kiwis who will represent Scotland this weekend, four years after watching the previous tournament back home in New Zealand.
He enjoyed the finest 80 minutes of his fledgling Scottish career in Paris, when his running from deep ripped the French apart.
And, if he needed any reminder of the benefits of playing international rugby half a world away from home, a packed Murrayfield on Sunday will provide it.
``It is a tremendous honour to play in a World Cup because so few people have the chance to do it,'' said Metcalfe.
``I watched the last competition on TV and it seems like an age ago.
``So much has happened to me since then that I can hardly believe it. But all those kind of thoughts must be out of my mind on Sunday.
``It is the first game of the World Cup, it is against South Africa and it could hardly be more important."

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