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Best focused on creating history


Ireland captain Rory Best is set to earn his 96th international cap against South Africa today.

Ireland captain Rory Best is set to earn his 96th international cap against South Africa today.

Ireland captain Rory Best is set to earn his 96th international cap against South Africa today.

"At altitude, your breathing is quite different.

"I remember coming in at half-time and my lips and the side of my mouth were bleeding because of the thin, dry air," Peter Stringer wrote in his autobiography, Pulling The Strings.

This light-bulb experience gave the half-back an appreciation for what it took to combat the twin challenge of South Africa and altitude at Bloemfontein in 2004.

Current Ireland captain Rory Best was not quite at the international level then. Shane Byrne and Frankie Sheahan reported for duty at Vodacom Park where the 31-17 loss was as expected as the difficulties coping with the barbaric conditions.

Now 33, Banbridge's Best waited for his international debut against the All Blacks in November 2005.

He is fast closing in on the accolade of becoming Ireland's latest centurion with his 96th cap due this afternoon.

What better way to celebrate his first Test series in the southern hemisphere as captain than to do what Brian O'Driscoll and those before him never could.

"I know if you talk to any international player, pulling on a Test jersey is special," he said, just after Ireland's captain's run yesterday.

"We know, the same as last week, there's an opportunity to create history here.

"We took a step forward last week in terms of being the first team to do it.

"Now, we have an opportunity to win a Test series which is unbelievably difficult to do.

"I think probably the big driver this week is that it's going to take a phenomenal performance to win here because there's a reason why so few teams come here and win a Test series.

"That's because it's hard to do. We know the Springboks aren't going to hand history to us.

"We have to take it ourselves."

It is one thing to talk up the importance of belief, especially when it comes to something that hasn't been done.

Ireland's confidence in what they can do will be underpinned by knowing they have already walked the walk in Cape Town.

"I think that we talked before the first game that we have beaten them before and that we know how to beat them," pushed Best.

"Knowing how to beat them and actually doing that are two different things."

However, the extra ingredient of playing at altitude throws in an unpredictable factor to sit beside the ones already in play.

"Look, we take confidence from what we achieved last week, but we know that this is a different track, a different match.

"I'm sure we're going to face a different Springboks side."

The home support will demand a transformation in physicality from Newlands.

South Africa are rarely out-muscled twice in seven days.

For Ireland to clinch the series against a rebooted Springboks attitude, and an altered altitude, will require them to take their performance to another level.

South Africa: W le Roux; JP Pietersen, L Mapoe, D de Allende, L Mvovo; E Jantjes, F de Klerk; T Mtawarira, A Strauss (capt), F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, PS du Toit, F Louw, S Kolisi, D Vermeulen.

Ireland: J Payne; A Trimble, R Henshaw, S Olding, C Gilroy; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong, D Toner, Q Roux, I Henderson, R Ruddock, J Heaslip.

South Africa v Ireland, Ellis Park (live Sky Sports 1, today, 4.0)