Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt expects the Springboks to start with the free flowing rugby which they ended the Rugby Championship with when the sides face each other next weekend.
Heyneke Meyer’s side finished second in the table despite back-to-back wins in their final two games against Australia and the All Blacks which saw them score seven tries in the two games. That included an eight-minute rampage against Australia where they scores three tries in the final eight minutes.
“To score three tries in the last 8 minutes, you don’t normally see that with a South African side. they have been worth every bit of scoring that they have delivered. THey have played some super stuff. They have got weapons out there as I have mentioned earlier. I would be delighted if they weren’t looking to use them but it seems to be a game strategy that they have adopted that we are going to have to be ready for.”
Schmidt pointed to the change in mindset in South African rugby since Meyer took charge in 2012, with the Springbok willing to run the ball from any position. It is looking like a formidable backline with the centre partnership between captain Jean de Villiers and 21 year-old Jan Serfontaine taking shape – they started the last four tests of the Rugby Championship – while fullback Willie le Roux, right wing Cornal Hendricks and left wing Bryan Habana played in all six games. And with Handré Pollard (started 5/6 Rugby Championship games) conducting the backline orchestra, Ireland are going to have to work harder in defence.
“One of the things about the South Africans when Pollard plays is they play a lot. The first phase of play in the most recent test went 3:20. A South African phase of play traditionally went probably 20 seconds. They would receive and maybe put the ball out if it was deep in their own half. They got the ball deep in their own half and they played their way out of the half. That is through much of change.
“For us, Les (Kiss) did a super session today defensively. The players are working very hard today. They are going to have to work much harder because that would be an area we will be working pretty hard on, to make sure we are ready for a South African team that is a lot different to the 2007 World Cup winning team with a very different coaching philosophy as to what Heyneke Meyer has adopted in recent teams.”
While Meyer can call on the experience of 250 caps in the backline, Schmidt might need to give a chance to the likes of Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw and Ian Madigan, who hasn’t got much experience at out-half for Leinster this year.
“You’ve got to back people. He has test match experience of playing test match rugby at 10. It’s a little bit like Robbie Henshaw. He hasn’t had the experience but they’re good rugby players. They understand the game and the players I know pretty well, and Les Kiss and Richie Murphy know pretty well and spent a lot of time with. That gives you a confidence even if he hasn’t had the game time there. Obviously getting the game time there would be fantastic. Because of Ian’s versatility – he’s a good rugby player wherever you put him, he’s served the Province really well.”
Cillian O Conchuir, Pundit Arena.