Sunday 18 March 2018

Best: Beating the Springboks at Ellis Park the toughest test

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Johannesburg

Ellis Park is known as South Africa’s fortress and Ireland captain Rory Best tasted what it has to offer when his U-21 side lost to 42-22 to the Baby Boks in 2002.

Fourteen years on, the Ulster hooker is back in Johannesburg and determined to make history with the senior side who are looking to follow the All Blacks and the Lions into the history books as the only teams to win a three-Test series in the Rainbow Nation.

The 33-year-old believes this is the toughest test he or any of his team-mates have faced as they look to weather the Springbok storm.

The ‘Boks have been on the end of relentless criticism since 14-man Ireland secured a 26-20 win at Newlands last weekend and a backlash is expected. Coach Allister Coetzee has handed the 13 fit players remaining from last week the opportunity to go again, and Best is expecting a response.

“It’s been a few years since I was out here in an U21 World Cup but it’s a magnificent stadium,” Best said after leading the Captain’s Run at Ellis Park this afternoon.

“It really is what rugby stadiums should be about, you can just imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like out there.

“Look, it’s going to be a massive test for us but it’s one we’re very much looking forward to. To come to South Africa and play the Springboks in Johannesburg it’s up there as one of the toughest Test matches you’ll face.

“Last week, it was a very ferocious Test match and I know that they’ve probably come under a little bit of criticism but for me it was a really, really tough game.

“They’ll want to come out and impose themselves physically on us. They probably feel that we got away from them a little bit there.

“For us, we can say tactically what we’re going do and what we’re going to expect from them, but emotionally, you have a fair idea and it’s hard to plan for that.

“You just don’t what to expect but for us it’s about making sure that we’re mentally where we need to be.

“We can’t allow them to get a foothold in the game because if you let a Springbok team, especially at Ellis Park, get a foothold in the game, it’s going to be a very tough evening for you.”

Despite the difficulty level, Best is demanding this much-changed Ireland side rise to the challenge of beating the Springboks for the second successive week.

“Motivation wise, it’s never an issue for us. I know if you talk to any international player, pulling on a Test jersey is special,” he said.

“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. That’s probably the big driver this week is that it’s going take a phenomenal performance to win here because there’s a reason why so few teams come here and win a Test series and that’s because it’s hard to do.

“So for us it’s about making sure that we get ourselves right, we do the same homework if not more homework than we did last week on the Springboks and we make sure that we’re in a position that we know the Springboks aren’t going to hand history to us, we have to take it ourselves. That’s going to be the tough challenge and I suppose that’s the challenge that you’re up for.”

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