What the Irish newspapers are saying on Thursday about the Test against the Springboks.
Todays’ papers have focused on the game at the Aviva Stadium and there are very few articles – with nothing new – about the World Cup bid. Both teams will be announced later today, and a big talking point here in Ireland is the selection of New Zealand-born centre Bundee Aki.
The Irish Times has run an analysis of how many ‘residency’ players have featured for Ireland in Joe Schmidt’s four-year tenure. Schmidt has capped seven players who have qualified under the residency rule.
Schmidt has used four South African-born players, namely Robbie Diack (two caps), Quinn Roux (three), CJ Stander (15) and Richardt Strauss (13). Writer John Sullivan says that the overall percentage of these players has been anything but modest. He does go on to say that ‘few would quibble with the positive impact [New Zealand-born] Jared Payne and Stander have made for their adopted country.’
In his comment piece for the Irish Independent, Neil Francis writes that the residency rule has corrupted Test rugby. However, he says, Ireland’s imports will be key against the Boks.
Francis is referring to Aki, who has qualified for the national team after playing for local side Connacht, and Stander, who has been with Munster for the past four years.
‘It is a rich irony that the fate of Saturday’s big match lies heavily on the performances of Aki and Stander. Aki has the sort of dramatic flair that can change the course of a game in an instant. Stander will play against his native land and countrymen. It is incongruous that he wears our shirt to represent us against his own country. You either understand this contradiction or you don’t.’
Francis is expecting the Boks to revert to type on Saturday. Clearly he doesn’t think much of their attack.
‘They have reverted to type again after attempting to copy New Zealand’s fluid style for a while. New Zealand covered [the Bok attack at Newlands] with not a huge amount of brain work to figure out and counter South Africa’s back field runners.
‘New Zealand could have won by a lot more,’ he adds. ‘I’m not sure that South Africa will be quite as competitive this Saturday – particularly away from home. This will be the type of Test where parents on reflection question the wisdom of letting their sons play such a violent game.’
Meanwhile, Ireland lock Iain Henderson is looking forward to renewing his rivalry with Bok skipper Eben Etzebeth. Henderson and Ezebeth first squared off at U20 level in 2011.
‘You could tell when he was younger that he was a captain who leads through what he does rather than speeches or trying to rile guys up,’ Henderson told the Irish Times. ‘His performances add to his presence and size and the way he carries himself.
Henderson confirmed that Ireland are still hurting after their 2-1 series loss in South Africa last year.
‘That’s something a wee bit annoying for us. We realise it was in our hands to take it. We can probably take lessons from that. If you don’t shut them down, they can take hold of the game pretty easily.’
Compiled by Jon Cardinelli in Dublin