Ireland winger Simon Zebo insists Ireland can mix it with the best after their commanding 29-15 victory over South Africa.
The win over one of the best sides in world rugby gives Ireland momentum going into their final two November internationals and the belief that they can beat whoever they play.”We’d have the confidence and belief that on our day we can live with anybody. Last year the boys lived up to the All Blacks for as long as possible, 80 minutes, and were unlucky not to come up with the win. No matter who the opposition are we’re confident we can go out and do a job if we’re firing on all cylinders.
Ireland went in at the break with two Jonathan Sexton penalties putting Ireland into a 6-3 lead. That allowed them to regroup says Zebo and two minutes after the restart Rhys Ruddock took advantage of a maul to dive over.
“We probably didn’t hold on to the ball enough. They’ve a lot of really big ball carriers. So if they get any bit of momentum they’ll be a seriously dangerous side. I suppose we were happy half-time came we got to regroup and we knew the next score would be a vital one and we got some vital scores at vital times.”
“We really wanted to attack at the start of the second half. We believe in the systems we have and the direction the team wants to go. When we set our goals for the season or the second half, whatever it may be, we fully believe we can go out and achieve them. Scoring the first points of the second half was one of them. It gave us momentum to go on.”
With a new centre partnership of Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw playing inside him, Zebo felt the experience they have had at club level meant there was no doubt that they could step up to the international fold.
“They’re unbelievably talented players. The two boys are very experienced. Robbie also even though he’s so young. At the end of the day it’s another game of rugby so all the hype building up around the two boys was a bit much, but the boys put in a great performance and at the end of the day it’s another game of rugby and they’re well able no matter who the opposition are.
“There’s never really an excuse of injuries. It’s part and parcel of the game and it’s going to happen to any squad. There’s great depth in the players we have in this country so anybody can step up and do a job.”
Joe gives that inner belief to all members of the squad and whoever’s lucky enough to get the shirt will go out and do it proud no matter who it is.
Ireland’s defence was immense, stopping South Africa on two occasions in the first half when Springbok out-half Handré Pollard opted to kick for the line rather than taking kicks at goal. But there were a few aspects of the game that Zebo feels they will need to improve on with Australia waiting in the third test.
“It’s very rewarding. Everyone is happy. There’s obviously parts of the game that we weren’t too happy with and we’ll need to iron out for next weekend and the weekend after.
“We put in a big shift defensively and the boys up front really stepped up physically and matched the Springboks which is a tough task to do. It was a big physical performance, there’s a lot of sore bodies inside.”
Cillian O Conchuir, Pundit Arena.