Shaky first-half displays from Cotter's Scots in previous Pool B outings will be punished by resurgent South Africa at St James' Park on Saturday.
South Africa looked back to their clinical and devastating best when dismantling Samoa last time out, providing them with a very welcome confidence boost and platform heading into a crucial showdown with unbeaten Scotland.
All the demons of that shocking loss to Japan were exorcised against the Pacific Islanders, and that spells bad news for Vern Cotter’s men here.
Betway offer the best price at an odds-on 2/11 for a Springboks victory, but this can be enhanced to 2/5 by taking them in the half-time/full-time market with the same bookmaker, and that is decent value considering the sloppy starts made by the Scots in Pool B so far.
Scotland have ultimately ran out comfortable winners in their first two clashes at this Rugby World Cup, but nervy first-half displays against minnows Japan and the USA, who they trailed against at the interval, are cause for concern when going into an encounter with elite nation South Africa.
It’s because of this that Cotter’s men start as 6/1 match outsiders with bet365, and the Springboks should have sense this clear weakness when it comes to getting out the blocks. The handicap market this appeals with South Africa evens with Paddy Power to turn around a seven-point deficit on their opponents.
Scottish failure to address early lethargy looks likely to be punished here, especially when punters note how the Springboks routed them in the last two head-to-heads, scoring 83 in total with just six points in reply.
Should South Africa continue to deny the Scots space or chances to run for the try-line, then everything points to another substantial win. Most worryingly of all for Cotter is the fine form of Springboks winger JP Pietersen, who crossed for a hat-trick in the Samoa win last time out.
He went over first in that encounter, so Pietersen is neat top-price of 9/1 with Ladbrokes to grab the opener again. Finn Russell’s absence for Scotland will be keenly felt at fly half. Add that to Henry Pyrgos’ fall from grace, and even inspirational captain Greig Laidlaw will struggle to lift the team for this huge test.
BETTING TIP: South Africa lead at half-time with -7 points handicap @ evens with Paddy Power.