Joe Schmidt says South African-born lock Quinn Roux is ideally suited for what should be an epic set-piece battle at Ellis Park on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports from Johannesburg.
On Thursday, Schmidt announced his 23-man squad for the second Test against South Africa. Surprisingly, the Ireland coach has made a series of changes to his starting side. Just as surprising are his changes to the Ireland pack. The forward combination that featured at Newlands made a gargantuan contribution to the 26-20 victory.
While flanker CJ Stander is serving a one-week suspension, the rest of the players in the squad are, according to Schmidt, available for selection. And yet the Ireland coach has opted to drop tighthead prop Mike Ross and openside flank Jordi Murphy from the match-day squad. Iain Henderson has been shifted from lock to blindside flank to accommodate Roux, a mountain of man who is all too familiar with the South African game.
Last month, a few people in Irish rugby circles questioned the inclusion of Roux in the 32-man squad. Schmidt, who has worked with the 1.96m, 124kg behemoth at Leinster before, has no doubt that Roux will make a big impact in this series.
‘Quinn is a very good set-piece player,’ the Ireland coach said on Thursday. ‘I coached him for two years, and was always aware of his ability.
‘Unfortunately, he picked up injury after injury during that time and so battled to get some rhythm. We know what he can do, and I’m looking forward to his performance this weekend.’
Schmidt said that he wasn’t surprised to see Pieter-Steph du Toit promoted to the Boks’ starting XV. Du Toit was one of the few Bok players who impressed at Newlands last week. Now that Lood de Jager is unavailable due to a calf injury, Du Toit will win his first start at No 5.
‘It was probably Allister Coetzee’s intention to start Du Toit in Cape Town, so it makes sense that he’s starting this weekend,’ said Schmidt. ‘He’s such a big guy, but he’s also such a good athlete.’
Schmidt is also expecting an improved showing by the Bok backline, in terms of attack and tactical kicking.
‘Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies play their Super Rugby for the Lions at Ellis Park, so they will be a factor. On the bench, the Boks have an experienced player in Morné Steyn who has the ability to control and win games. We saw that when he helped Stade Français win the Top 14 last year. It’s an interesting mix that should put us under pressure.’
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