What the Irish newspapers are saying on Saturday about the Test against the Springboks and the 2023 World Cup bid.
Today’s sport pages are dominated by content relating to the Republic of Ireland’s clash with Denmark in a 2018 World Cup qualifier. That may change tomorrow, though, should the Republic of Ireland lose and should Joe Schmidt’s Ireland beat the Boks.
‘Prepare for blood and thunder because this is a friendly in name only,’ reads the title of Tony Ward’s column in the Irish Independent.
‘Facing down the Boks is second only to the All Blacks in almost every way,’ Ward writes. ‘But rugby on the Horn of Africa has lost its aura as defeats to Japan in 2015, to Italy and to Ireland in 2016 and – whisper it – that 57-point drubbing inflicted by New Zealand in Albany represented a new and particularly hurtful low.’
Ward says Bok coach Allister Coetzee has been wise to talk up Ireland this past week. He isn’t buying Coetzee’s suggestion that Ireland are the ‘All Blacks of Europe’, though.
‘Not even close,’ he says. ‘Leaving the next two World Cups aside – 2019, where we may meet in the quarter-final, and 2023 for which we are currently competing vigorously off the field – this is a huge game for both countries. It may border on nasty, but whatever else a “friendly” international this is not.’
In the same paper, Ruaidhri O’Connor says Ireland’s success in the November internationals will hinge on a good start against South Africa. He has predicted a 23-18 win for the hosts.
Alan Quinlan notes how CJ Stander’s evolution highlights the contrast between Ireland and South Africa.
‘You could see how deeply ingrained the South African philosophy was in him [when Stander first moved to Ireland]; he knew little else but to tuck the ball under his arm and charge forward in a straight line. Five years on, Stander has made huge improvements and has become a much rounded and effective player.
‘Stander is an emotional guy and while the spotlight may have been shining elsewhere in the build-up to this evening’s game, he will be desperate to make his presence felt at the Aviva.’
Writing for the Irish Examiner. Donal Lenihan says Ireland must prey on the Boks’ ‘mental fragility’. Lenihan notes the lack of experience of the touring side, particularly in the back division.
‘This Bok side is suspect in a number of key areas, short on confidence and vulnerable to the type of scrutiny that Ireland will seek to expose them to. What they do possess is a massive desire to succeed and that makes them dangerous.
‘If Ireland manages to charge out of the blocks after four months of international inactivity in the manner achieved in Chicago [when they beat the All Blacks last year] then this callow Springbok side will struggle to cope.’
Gerry Thornley of the Irish Times also feels there is a lot on the line today.
‘This should be interesting. To the backdrop of a feisty off-field battle for the 2023 World Cup, with fourth place in the world rankings at stake and mindful that they could meet in the World Cup quarter-finals less than two years hence, as friendlies go this doesn’t look too friendly.’
‘Schmidt to Boks clever’ reads a headline in the Irish Daily Mail. Liam Heagney writes: ‘Multiple factors are fuelling the hunch Ireland will this evening become the latest country to give Allister Coetzee’s bungling Boks a bloody nose.
‘Simply put, these tourists, whose halfbacks are very average, get repeatedly mugged abroad and street-wise Ireland should be the latest to cash in on the generosity.’
Heagney expects Ireland to prevail. ‘It should all add up to a Schmidt masterclass and a positive start to this November series.’
Compiled by Jon Cardinelli in Dublin