‘Best Bok side in 20 years’

What the Irish newspapers are saying ahead of the Test at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

‘Best-ever Boks have embraced a nation’s history of revolution,’ screams a headline in today’s Irish Daily Mail. Hugh Farrelly talks about how far South Africa has come as a nation, and then as a rugby team. Farrelly writes that Meyer has ‘realised that forward strength and precision place-kicking are no longer enough and he has brought through talents like Willie le Roux and Handré Pollard to provide an extra attacking edge. In addition, he has expanded the tactical blueprint and enhanced the skill sets of the established stars’.

Farrelly goes as far as to call this team the best to come out of South Africa in 20 years: ‘This looks to be the most complete Springbok side of the professional era, markedly superior to the teams that won the World Cups in 1995 and 2007’. Farrelly ends his column by declaring that ‘South Africa have found a template for others to aspire to’.

The Irish press corps remain pessimistic about their team’s chances against the Boks this Saturday. This much was clear in the main rugby piece in today’s Irish Independent, in which the writer, Ruaidhri O’Connor, seems surprised to hear that the Ireland team still harbours hope of an upset.

‘We have to be smarter, not try to run through the Boks’ is the comment by Conor Murray that has been used as a headline. The scrumhalf plays down the injuries that have hit the squad, and said Ireland will employ a less direct approach regardless of their personnel. The writer feels that Murray is ‘speaking for a confident squad, one at odds with a fearful public’ and while a win against the Boks would be a great achievement for the top side in Europe, ‘few locals will put their money on it’.

Elsewhere in today’s edition of the Irish Independent, David Kelly notes the evolution of this Bok side under Meyer. ‘And so the Springboks have become reformed creatures, still the most fearsome gainline bashers in the business but with added guile to their formidable grunt’. Kelly says readers can expect an exciting Test now that Pollard is playing at No 10 for the Boks, and suggests the clash between Pollard and Ireland pivot Jonny Sexton, who has been pronounced fit, should be a classic.

The Irish Examiner has published their ‘power rankings’ for the autumn internationals, and unsurprisingly the All Blacks, Boks and Wallabies are ranked at No 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Ireland come in at No 4 ahead of England. Simon Lewis believes England will battle without a series of frontline players this November, and that Ireland will also have to cope following several big losses in personnel.

By Jon Cardinelli

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