Irish anticipate defensive test

Ireland are determined to produce another abrasive defensive performance in anticipation of tackling a smarting Springbok side this Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Johannesburg.

Ireland’s shock victory at Newlands last weekend was built on a foundation of courageous scramble defence, which saw the visitors repeatedly repel the Springboks’ attacking advances despite a one-man disadvantage.

In the end, Ireland’s ability to maintain an insatiable work rate on defence and adjust in the absence of red-carded CJ Stander proved to be one of the key differences between the sides.

Yet the Boks have readily acknowledged that they were far too lateral on attack, made an array of basic errors and went away from a pre-planned tactical-kicking game, which played into Ireland’s hands.

One can expect the Boks to be far more direct, pragmatic and patient when they come up against Ireland this Saturday, and loose forward Rhys Ruddock acknowledged that they were expecting to face a completely different challenge in an encounter that will hopefully see both sides retain a full complement of players.

‘We were put under a lot of pressure on defence last weekend, although we were obviously down to 14 men. The guys dug in and really worked hard, which was a positive, but it also meant that things weren’t always going according to plan. We had to improvise a bit, and we know that we now need to go back to our original plans.

‘I think we did bring an added physicality [at Newlands] and that needs to be the focus again, but we’re also expecting the Boks to lift their level of physicality even more. So, we need to improve our margins and stick to our system defensively, then hopefully we can cope with that.’

This week, the word out of the Ireland camp has repeatedly revolved around their desire to put last weekend’s result behind them and ensure they head into Saturday’s encounter with a clean slate.

Ruddock said he believed Ireland would need to lift their performance to another level and ensure they retained their utmost respect for the threats posed by the Boks.

‘One of the key messages this week has been that there is still about another 10 to 15% that we can develop in order to turn in another big performance this Saturday. The other message is that we knew we were at our best when we were a little fearful of what the opposition offered and what they’re capable of, and that’s why it’s no different this week. We know what the Boks can do and that they’re a difficult team to beat even when we’re at the top of our game. We have to have a clear plan going into the game and ensure we execute under the pressure we’re expecting to face.’

Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis