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Centre Richie Vernon ready for the fight if called upon by Scotland

Published 30/09/2015

Blair Cowan, pictured, is back in the Scotland camp after replacing the injured Grant Gilchrist
Blair Cowan, pictured, is back in the Scotland camp after replacing the injured Grant Gilchrist

Scotland centre Richie Vernon has told Vern Cotter he is up for the fight as the Dark Blues prepare for Saturday's gain-line battle with South Africa.

The Scots can clinch a World Cup quarter-final slot if they hand the Springboks their second defeat of the tournament when they clash at St James' Park.

But head coach Cotter knows his side will come up against a team desperate to make amends for their shock loss in their opening Pool B fixture to Japan, which blew the group wide open and left the Boks' hopes of topping the group severely damaged.

Scotland have grasped the initiative in the wake of that upset, storming to a pair of bonus points with five-try wins over the Brave Blossoms and then the United States.

But things will be ratcheted up when they come up against Heyneke Meyes' juggernaut side.

However, converted former back-rower Vernon - who has yet to feature in the tournament - insists he can provide Cotter with the steel he needs in midfield.

The 6ft 5in Glasgow centre said: "The Boks are certainly a really physical team but that is something I believe I could bring to Scotland's game as well. A bit of physicality and a bit of size.

"When you play South Africa you know they are going to take you on up front. They will try to batter and bruise you. If you can stand up to that, you have got a good chance.

"It's not up to me how much of a role I play, though.

"It's not been too hard sitting watching from the sidelines so far actually. I realised coming into this World Cup that we have a really competitive group of centres packed with guys playing really well.

"I knew realistically coming in that this might be the case, certainly for the first few games anyway.

"Of course with the atmosphere around the games you want to be involved - they are great games to play in. But I'm just trying to stay positive and hopefully I'll get my chance. I know it's going to be a long World Cup for us."

Cotter is likely to be forced to do without influential playmaker Finn Russell for Saturday's match, with the stand-off still hobbling about on crutches after injuring his ankle in Sunday's win over the US.

But even with Russell fit and ready, Vernon knows the Scots are shaping up for their biggest test yet.

"It's exciting to think we are just one win away from those quarter-finals," he said. "It's been tough so far but we knew from the start we were facing four really hard group games.

"We have achieved our objectives so far getting those two bonus-point wins against two really tricky sides.

"We have done a lot of hard work so far but now the games are getting even bigger and tougher from here on it. We know South Africa will be a huge test but the guys are just looking forward to it."

Vernon is just one of five men in Cotter's 31-strong group who have tasted World Cup action before.

But memories of 2011, where the Scots struggled through their first two matches before crashing out at the group stage after losing to Argentina and England, have only convinced Vernon this side is going in the right direction.

He said: "Four years ago we struggled through our first game but in a lot of ways I thought we were stronger for coming through that one with Romania and the next against Georgia.

"This time we've had similar challenges. Both of our games have been tight at half-time but the guys then came through strong in the second half, playing some really good attacking stuff.

"This time round we just have that little bit more confidence and we seem to be able to score tries so much more easily. I think we are a more dangerous side than we were four years ago and that is obviously advantageous.

"We do need to step things up a little bit with the games coming up now but we feel if we can get into our game for any period of time we can be a threat."

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