Ireland are expecting a different sort of challenge from the Springboks now that Duane Vermeulen has been ruled out of the decisive third Test. JON CARDINELLI reports from Port Elizabeth.
Last Saturday, Vermeulen sustained an elbow injury in the second Test at Ellis Park. The Bok No 8 went for scans on Monday and was subsequently ruled out of action for two to six weeks.
The news is a blow to a Bok side bent on a more physically dominant performance in Port Elizabeth this weekend. While the Boks have another No 8 in their squad, Warren Whiteley is better known for his athletic exploits in an open contest than his physicality in a war of gainline attrition.
Speaking from the Ireland team base in the seaside suburb of Summerstrand on Tuesday, assistant coach Greg Feek said that Ireland are expecting a different sort of challenge from a new Bok back row.
‘Duane is one of the most powerful loose forwards in the world,’ the former All Blacks prop said. ‘A lot of time is spent analysing his game and how to stop him. Then there is the fact that when he plays, he lifts those around him. When a player like that is out injured, it’s always a big loss.
‘That said, we’ve been very impressed with Whiteley and the other South African loose forwards. It goes to show how awesome the depth of talent is in this country when a player like that [Whiteley] can come in.
‘In a way, he is just as good. But he will add a different element to the contest, and a new challenge for us.’
Feek, who operates as Ireland’s scrum coach, has also been impressed by Steven Kitshoff’s performances in recent years. Kitshoff made his mark at the Stormers before moving to Bordeaux in France. The loosehead prop is set to make his Test debut in Port Elizabeth this Saturday.
‘We’ve spent a lot of time analysing the players in France. I remember looking at one of the France international players who plays for Bordeaux, and so I had the chance to see Kitshoff in action at the same time,’ said Feek. ‘He’s a good young scrummager, and is dynamic around the park.’
Ireland have taken a lot of confidence out of their set-piece performances in the first two Tests of the series. According to Feek, the pack will need to be even sharper in the series decider at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
‘There were a lot of nerves ahead of this series, given the size and power of that Springbok pack,’ he said. ‘But I think we’ve done well. Both teams would have learned a lot from that last game at Ellis Park, and will be looking to lift their game this weekend.’
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