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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Form guide: Scotland
Scotland could not contain Stefan Terblanche
Scotland performed well against the Springboks
Scotland may only have a win-loss record of 3-6 in 2003 but that in isolation fails to represent the strides the side have made recently.

Ian McGeechan's men ended the Six Nations championship fourth after defeats to England, Ireland and France.

But they were unlucky not to pick up back-to-back victories against the Springboks on their summer southern hemisphere tour.

Their efforts in South Africa led coach McGeechan to insist that Scotland could once again be world beaters.

McGeechan said: "I believe we will be a match for any side in the months and years to come. This is a very talented and committed squad."

The World Cup is in all probability coming too soon for that statement to ring true in Australia, but it could prove a positive end to a year that looked set to be an annus horribilis following their opening game of the year in the Six Nations.

They were overwhelmed 36-6 by Ireland as the men from the Emerald Isle won at Murrayfield for the first time since 1985.

David Humphreys rattled off 26 points for the visitors, including one of three tries.

FORM IN 2003

Scotland were similarly overwhelmed by both France and England but made amends with tight victories against Italy and Wales.

In a game that had been billed as a wooden spoon play-off, Scotland finally found their Six Nations feet to bury Wales with a dominant forward effort.

A powerful performance from Scotland's front five, coupled with dynamic displays from Simon Taylor, James White and Andrew Mower in the back row, was just enough to give the home side the much-needed victory.

In a similarly tight game, Italy were also defeated to give McGeechan and his players the boost required for their trip to South Africa.

In the opening Springbok Test, the tourists played by far the more enterprising rugby and were rewarded with tries from White, Andy Craig and Chris Paterson.

But a barrage of 17 points in 11 second-half minutes saw South Africa stage an unlikely comeback.

A week later Scotland suffered a similar fate as the hosts again came back from behind to win.

Leading 16-12 at half-time after a first-half Craig try, however, the Springboks slowly but surely took control of the game with their experience at altitude telling as the match progressed.

Despite defeat, their efforts on tour buoyed confidence and they won their reward against Italy in August.

Earlier in the year they had come close to losing to the Azzurri but less than six months on they stormed to a 47-15 victory with tries from White, James McLaren, Mike Blair, Gordon Ross, Simon Danielli and Brendan Laney.

But Scotland, missing some key figures, were subsequently beaten by Wales at the Millennium Stadium and Ireland at Murrayfield.

It was far from the perfect send-off in a year that has shown signs of promise.





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