• Continuity the difference for Boks

    John Plumtree says the Springboks' extended preparations will see them make a strong start against Ireland on Saturday, reports BRENTON CHELIN.

    Fortune favours the prepared mind. It's an old adage, and one that rings true in the game of rugby. While in seasons gone by, key Bok players might've spent the weeks following the Rugby Championship in full-blooded battle against each other, this year has been considerably different.

    The core of the squad that has travelled to the northern hemisphere spent the last two weeks in Stellenbosch, where they bumped heads over tactical insights, all the while recovering from what is the most competitive international competition around. It's been a successful exercise for Saru and the Springbok coaching staff, who took the decision – with the backing of the provincial unions – in the best interests of the national side to rest the Boks for the latter part of the Currie Cup.

    Plumtree, the former Sharks and Ireland forwards coach, says it's been a long time coming, and that it will only help the Boks moving forward.

    'From a preparation point of view, they'll feel more organised. Players will be fresh and really keen to get out on the pitch,' Plumtree told SARugbymag.co.za.

    'The Springboks should never have been allowed to play Currie Cup after the Rugby Championship. The All Blacks haven't been involved for a long time in the NPC and everyone accepts that it's for the good of the national team.'

    The decision has resulted in the Boks spending the best part of three months together heading into the end-of-year tour. Contrast that with the Irish, who haven't been together since the two Tests against Argentina in June.

    However, with many first-choice players rested for that tour following a gruelling Six Nations tournament, the last time the Irish squad spent a considerable period of time together was in March. Such short preparation time has hampered their performances in the past.

    'Ireland haven't played together for a long time,' said Plumtree. 'We were terrible in our first game against Samoa last year, where we were extremely rusty. Then we got hammered by Australia, where we were only just a little bit better. Then we put it all together against the All Blacks. So it won't be easy for the Irish.'

    Plumtree has also earmarked the Springboks' strength-in-depth as a potential differentiator in Saturday's Test. The Bok bench played a pivotal role against the Wallabies at Newlands earlier this year, while they withheld a late All Blacks onslaught at Ellis Park a week later.

    The Irish come into this match without the likes of Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy, two crucial members of their Six Nations-winning squad. While they are still searching for a successor to Brian O'Driscoll in the midfield. Plumtree says that against a well-rested Bok side, who possess the likes of Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha on the bench, the Irish will need to make the most of their home advantage.

    'It [their lack of depth] was a bit of an issue for them when they lost to the All Blacks in that nail-biter last year, where they didn't have the bench at the end to compete with what the All Blacks provided.

    'However, if the Irish are in the game with 10 minutes to go, then there's absolutely no reason why they can't win it. They'll be well organised, knowing their coaching staff. It will be a packed house at Aviva Stadium, and the crowd will be right behind them.

    'If their set piece functions well and they can compete at the breakdowns, then anything can happen. That Irish loose forward trio – Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip and Peter O'Mahony – is a pretty formidable unit. If they can make sure that Ireland get quick enough ball, then there's enough quality in Conor Murray, Jonny Sexton, Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney to cause problems.'

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