The Springboks expect Ireland to spring a few tactical surprises when the two teams clash at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Dublin.
Three years ago, Heyneke Meyer’s Boks arrived in Dublin on the back of a win against the All Blacks. The team fancied its chances against Joe Schmidt’s young Ireland outfit as did the local press, who described the tourists as ‘the best Bok side in 20 years’.
As any Irishman will tell you, the Boks were taught a tactical lesson that day. Ireland hammered the Boks at the breakdown and outfoxed them at the lineout. In the end, the 29-15 scoreline flattered the visitors.
Three years on, and Ireland are favourites to beat a less experienced and indeed less well-rounded Bok team. On Monday, Coetzee compared Schmidt’s current Ireland side to Steve Hansen’s All Blacks.
‘We have huge respect for Ireland. They’re close to being the All Blacks side of Europe,’ the Bok coach said.
‘They have a good recent record against the All Blacks [Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016, and many of the Irishmen in the side enjoyed success when featuring for the British & Irish Lions in the Test series played in New Zealand earlier this year]. They’re a great side that is very well coached by Joe Schmidt. Andy Farrell, the defence coach, is also very astute.
‘So we’ve got to be at our best this weekend. We need a good start to this tour. We need to build on the things that we did well against the All Blacks at Newlands last month. That performance has to be the standard going forward.’
Ireland will look to make a statement of their own this weekend. Schmidt’s side lost 2-1 to the Boks in the series played in South Africa last year. More recently, the coach and the players have made it clear that they desperately want to begin this November campaign with an emphatic performance and result.
In terms of tactics, the Bok players have been instructed to expect the unexpected.
‘South Africa lost to Ireland in 2014,’ said Coetzee. ‘They had a great plan that day, putting the ball in behind our wingers. We must be able to deal with that this weekend. At the same time, we must expect something new and innovative from them.
‘They’ve been together as a group for a long time and they have a lot of experience. They won’t want for motivation. I’m sure they’re still hurting from that series loss [last year]. They probably felt that it was their best chance to win a series in South Africa.’
The Bok coach highlighted the importance of a win at the Avivia Stadium this Saturday, and in the subsequent Tests against France, Italy and Wales.
‘We have to keep putting the building blocks in place. We have to start winning the tight games. We know all four of these games in Europe will be tight.
‘I have a massive respect for the countries we will face after Ireland. We lost three out of three last year so I can’t really say who will be our toughest opponents on this trip. It’s a great opportunity for a Bok team that has been together for seven months now, though.
‘We have learned from every experience. I have noted how we have grown this year. I’m really excited. Ireland will be tough but we will come away with a learning experience.’
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images