Jackson amped for Ellis Park test

Ireland flyhalf Paddy Jackson is determined to produce another match-winning kicking performance against the Springboks this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.

On Wednesday, the Ireland players were given the day off. Many of the players took the opportunity to visit a local lion park in Johannesburg.

Jackson, however, turned down what for many was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Instead, the Ireland flyhalf travelled to Ellis Park to practise his kicking ahead of the crucial second Test against the Boks.

‘I missed out on the trip to lion park, which is a bit disappointing,’ Jackson said on Thursday. ‘However, I felt that I needed to get down to Ellis Park and get a feel for the ground, and to have another session at altitude.’

Jackson contributed 16 points from the tee last Saturday. The accuracy of his tactical kicking game, as well as his game management, went a long way towards securing a historic 26-20 victory for Ireland at Newlands.

If South African rugby fans didn’t know about Jackson before, they will know all about him now. The flame-haired 24-year-old from Belfast made a big statement in that first Test. The injury-enforced absence of British & Irish Lions flyhalf Johnny Sexton did not, as some had predicted, limit Ireland’s potency as an attacking and tactical unit.

‘Johnny has had the No 10 jumper for a while now, and rightly so,’ said Jackson, when he was asked about stepping out of Sexton’s shadow. ‘It’s unfortunate that he broke down with injury, but it did present me with an opportunity and I did everything I could to take it.

‘Johnny has performed at a high level for a long time. He has done everything to earn the team’s trust and respect. I think I stepped up and so did the rest of the team to earn everyone’s respect at Newlands.

‘I said before the Test at Newlands that I wanted to run and manage the game,’ added Jackson. ‘It wasn’t a perfect game, and I was upset when I threw that intercept pass to Pieter-Steph du Toit and when I hit the post with a goal attempt. Thankfully I was able to bounce back from those mistakes.’

The Boks have been working hard to improve their line speed on defence this past week. The hosts didn’t put enough pressure on the Ireland halfbacks at Newlands, and this aided Conor Murray and Jackson in their bid to control the game.

Jackson said that the Irish are expecting an aggressive approach by the Boks at Ellis Park.

‘After the game at Newlands, a few of us made that comment. They will be coming for us even harder at Ellis Park.

‘They were physical at Newlands, but we’re expecting them to take it up a notch this weekend. It’s going to be a massive challenge for us again.’

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Jon Cardinelli