Thursday 27 April 2017

Five ways Ireland can beat South Africa for the second time in a week

Tadhg Furlong and his colleagues at the conclusion of Saturday's encounter in Cape Town
Tadhg Furlong and his colleagues at the conclusion of Saturday's encounter in Cape Town
Allister Coetzee has spoken of the need for his team to play smarter, to have more discipline and to choose their moments to attack Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Perhaps Nick Mallett, the former South Africa coach, put it best this week when he said: "When you lose as a Springbok, the next week is horrendous."

Ireland can expect an angry opponent on Saturday evening at Ellis Park, one determined to prove that last weekend's result was a freak and that they remain a superior force.

All week, Mallett's successor Allister Coetzee has spoken of the need for his team to play smarter, to have more discipline and to choose their moments to attack.

Yet for all that he has paid lip-service to Ireland's bravery, there is a real sense that the belief in South Africa is that the tourists won in Cape Town due to the things that the host nation did not do, rather than what they put together themselves.

In Johannesburg, Joe Schmidt's team have a chance to double-down on history. Having beaten the Boks in South Africa for the first time, there is an opportunity to join the All Blacks and the Lions as the only teams to have won a three-Test series here.

Doing it will not be easy, but Ireland must ride the momentum of last week's win and come back for more.

Play with intent

Coetzee's statement that Ireland didn't play any rugby appeared not only churlish, but wide of the mark.

From their first possession, the Six Nations side swept the ball wide where Andrew Trimble made gains up the right wing and that set the tone for a courageous performance with ball in hand that had to be tempered when CJ Stander was sent off, but wasn't put aside altogether.

When it was on, Ireland's playmakers, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall and Jared Payne, weren't afraid to go for it and despite their numerical disadvantage looked the more likely team to score.

Back to 15 v 15 on Saturday on a famously fast track in Johannesburg, Ireland have an opportunity to build on their opening quarter in Cape Town.



The ball travels further at altitude and both teams are likely to test the opposition back three out in Ellis Park.

Ireland have an experienced back three who all provide aerial strength, but all three also have the capacity to attack from deep when handed the opportunity.

South Africa out-half Elton Jantjes is expected to get the nod on his club ground and is known for his attacking strengths, but with Coetzee urging his players to be more selective about their attacking moments, his kicking game is there to be exposed.

Jared Payne was outstanding in the first Test and is an expert at finding space when returning kicks. If Ireland can punish the Lions half-backs, they'll be on to something.


Win 'the shoulder battle'

Coetzee spoke at length about Ireland's body height in contact in last week's first Test, explaining how the men in green's low trajectory allowed them to win the collisions and neutered the breakdown threat of the hosts.

That's been a feature of Schmidt's side who thrive on the quick recycle, but the Springboks have worked all week on adjusting.

"If you look at the way they carry ball, it's really low, it's difficult to stop them on the gainline so because they get that extra yard or metre their cleaners are coming forward, so you can't steal if a guy goes a metre past you, you'll always find yourself in an offside position or coming in from the side," he said.

"So it's all about the shoulder battle, it's all about the body height this week and that's going to be a big focus point for us."

Ireland won the shoulder battle last weekend, now their opponents are aware of what's coming.


Keep the line-speed high

Ireland's line-speed was impressive at the onset at Newlands and understandably faded as the game went on and they adjusted with 14 men.

Under Andy Farrell, the key word around defence has been 'mindset' and the players certainly brought a positive attitude to that area last weekend as they raced up and met the Springboks behind the gain-line, successfully preventing wide attacks.

With Coetzee promising a tighter game, this will be all about preventing Even Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and the other Bok ball-carriers from gaining momentum into contact and frustrating them.


Provide a good platform

Ireland's best attacks came off solid set-piece platform and, although neither the scrum nor the lineout ran perfectly, they will hope to tighten up with a full complement of players.

Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira got on top of Mike Ross at times, but the Corkman found a way to cope with the impressive loosehead and he has another big shift ahead of him.

If the scrum and lineout can provide good, clean ball then Ireland can unlock the Bok defence.

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