Irish scrum-half Conor Murray believes Ireland must kick on from last year’s narrow defeat to the All Blacks as they face South Africa this Saturday.
Ireland have won just four times in 21 attempts against the Springboks with three victories coming in 2004, 2006 and 2009. But after Ireland came within seconds of defeating the All Blacks for the first time last year, Murray insists it gives them confidence going into an any game against the world’s best.
“That’s a marker we have put down now and we know we can do it. We lost the game in the last 30 seconds or less. That is a huge belief for us that we can go out there. We can perform against these teams. Looking at South Africa now, they are in great form, really good players, they have got this more expansive play, which is a bit more threatening.
“We know if we get our detail right and show up on the day to our capabilities we have a chance of winning against any team. That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to get back to that level now.
Much has been made of the running threat of this Heyneke Meyer Springboks, who scored three tries in the final 10 minutes against Australia and beat the All Blacks in the final minutes of their final Rugby Championship clash. And if there is one player that they have remodelled their game plans on, it is 20-year-old out-half Handré Pollard. The gifted youngster played five out of the last six Rugby Championships games and he scored two tries and nine points in the 27-25 win over the All Blacks.
“They’ve improved over the last year definitely, along with the traditional strengths of a South African team, big strong, physical men, power up front. They are a lot more expansive especially with Handré Pollard at 10. They are a lot more willing to run from deep, with a more likelihood to try higher risk play. It brings a bit more of a threat throughout the park.
“They’re a better team than when we played them a couple of years ago. Definitely during the Championship, they definitely impressed. We’ve had a lot of work, looking at their players and their strengths. That is our focus. This is a huge game for us starting off, so that is where the focus is at the moment.”
South Africa will also likely have 21-year-old Jan Serfontein in the centre alongside 33-year-old captain Jean de Villiers and with Australia to come in two weeks time, it is yet another marker for Ireland to set. The pressure is on.
“Anytime you come into international camp there is pressure put on you to perform. We want to keep growing as a team. We know what’s down the line. We know there is a 6 Nations, there is a world cup but especially in November, you are more than likely playing top Southern Hemisphere teams and that is a huge challenge in itself.
“It’s certainly game by game. I am not looking at any other game but South Africa this weekend because they are such a strong team. They seem to be in really good form. I know they have had a couple of weeks break but they will continue in that form. That is a huge challenge.”