What the Irish newspapers are saying on Friday about the Test against the Springboks and the 2023 World Cup bid.
The focus here in Ireland has shifted to the coming Test, and more specifically to Joe Schmidt’s selection of New Zealand-born centre Bundee Aki.
Hugh Farrelly’s piece in the Irish Daily Mail addresses the recent comments made by Ollie le Roux as well as the reaction of many to the selection of yet another foreigner for Ireland.
‘Le Roux should keep quiet and embrace of all his land’s changes’ reads the headline of the article, referring to Le Roux’s recent attack on coach Allister Coetzee as well as the issue of transformation in South African rugby.
‘Ollie le Roux should keep his mouth shut, as should any other opponents of transformation,’ writes Farrelly.
‘So Le Roux believes that whites are not getting a fair crack of the whip – an incredible statement for a 44-year-old Afrikaner to make, given that he would have grown up in the apartheid era when non-whites were denied basic human rights, never mind a realistic chance of playing rugby for their country.
‘Siya Kolisi grew up in abject poverty in the Zwide township and under the apartheid regime would never have made a career in rugby. Today he is arguably the form back row in world rugby.
‘Of course, Ireland cannot take the moral high ground,’ he continues, moving towards the issue of Aki’s selection.
‘Rugby-wise, there has been nothing comparable to the South African experience, but it is depressing to note that the issue of residency qualification only became a frontline issue when Bundee Aki qualified to make his Ireland debut … despite caps being handed out to Richardt Strauss, Robbie Diack, Jared Payne and CJ Stander in the last five years, it took the selection of a non-white player with an exotic name to make it an issue with the wider public.
‘Coincidence? Perhaps, but it leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling nonetheless.’
Schmidt wasn’t happy when the issue was brought up at the team announcement on Thursday. ‘I hope that for his sake and the team’s sake that he has a scorching game.’
The Ireland coach didn’t mind talking about what this game could do for the country’s chances of hosting the 2023 World Cup. South Africa is the preferred host candidate and that decision should be ratified on 15 November, but many people in Ireland, including Schmidt, haven’t given up hope of the World Rugby council vote going their way.
‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could put in a really good performance and put them [the IRFU] in the shop window when people are making their votes next Wednesday. It would be fantastic,’ Schmidt said.
‘If we got a World Cup here, people would have an unbelievable time. They would fully embrace the tournament, but they would be fully embraced by the Irish people which is an opportunity to have a unique experience. It would be unfortunate if people did miss it.’
Most of the Irish scribes have highlighted the home team’s strength in the halfbacks. Clearly they aren’t expecting much from the Bok No 9 and 10.
‘Ross Cronjé is a fine footballer but one that carries a critical flaw. He has a pronounced wind-up before passing whereas his opposite number Conor Murray moves the ball directly. With so many rucks in modern rugby, those extra half-seconds the Bok No 9 takes can compromise their attacking ambitions,’ says Farrelly in the Mail.
‘Elton Jantjies has a touch of flakiness about him, varying between brilliance and calamity whereas Ireland can depend on Johnny Sexton to make the smart calls.’
In the Irish Times, Liam Toland notes how the All Blacks punished the Boks from turnover ball in the 57-0 result in Albany two months ago.
‘With such a new Irish [backline] combination I suspect Sexton will control turnovers gained by selecting when to punish, whether kicking to the corners or unleashing Aki et al. But unleash him he must.’
Brendan O’Brien of the Irish Examiner has no doubt that Ireland will beat the Boks.
‘Ireland is a far more settled team, its combinations are better, and in Murray and Sexton they have halfbacks who will steer the ship better than any other northern hemisphere pairing this month.
‘The Boks will feel that they can run over Ireland, which should give tomorrow a nice edge. Ireland are plucky, but we are a better rugby team, the Boks will think. Really?’
Compiled by Jon Cardinelli in Dublin