Finn Russell believes Scotland are ready to establish themselves as one of the top rugby teams in the world.
The stand-off kicked the decisive penalty in Sunday’s 15-13 win over Australia as Gregor Townsend’s side notched their third victory this year over teams currently in the world’s top six.
The burgeoning Scots are currently ranked seventh and Russell reckons they are well poised to move back into the top five for the first time since 2018, when they were fifth – the highest they have been since the ranking system began in 2004.
He said: “In my time we’ve always been up there in the top 10, which is great, but we’ve got to push to get to the top five, if not higher. That’s why it was a big result for us to beat Australia. We’ve beaten them the last three times we’ve played them.
“There’s not an expectation that we’d beat them because they’re still the number three team in the world but within the squad we were confident going into that game and we knew if we played well, we’d have the ability to beat them.
“That’s the level of expectation we’ve got in this group just now, that we know we can knock over the number three team in the world.
“I think we can break into the top five. If we get the results we’re looking for in the next few games and then into the Six Nations, we’ll be well on our way up there. I believe we can.”
Russell feels a key factor in Scotland’s resurgence is their ability to hold their nerve in tight matches against top-level sides such as the Six Nations wins over England and France, and Sunday’s triumph over the Wallabies.
It gives the Racing 92 player belief that they are equipped to pull off another big result when world champions South Africa visit Murrayfield.
He said: “That game on Sunday was one we potentially might have lost in the past, when the narrow margins would go against us. But now we seem to have changed that and, instead of losing by fine margins on Sunday, we managed to win it.
“There’s a lot of excitement building around this team and where we’re going. We’ve been building over the last three, four, five years to get to where we are now and it feels like we’re starting to turn a corner in terms of getting wins from more of the narrow games, which is great.
“Against South Africa, we’re going to have to be at our best again and carry that same belief because it might be another narrow game.
“Australia managed to beat South Africa twice in the summer and we’ve managed to find a way to beat Australia so why can’t we do the same again this weekend? It’s a great challenge for us but we’ve got the belief we can do it.”