Sport International Rugby

Friday 20 July 2018

Best urges debutant Aki to play his own game

 

Aki qualifies to play for Joe Schmidt’s side after spending three impressive seasons at Connacht, where he has become a leading light for the western province. Photo: Sportsfile
Aki qualifies to play for Joe Schmidt’s side after spending three impressive seasons at Connacht, where he has become a leading light for the western province. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland captain Rory Best has urged Bundee Aki to put his best foot forward against South Africa by continuing to play to his own strengths.

The New Zealander makes his international debut for Ireland against the Springboks this evening after a week in which he has dominated the headlines.

Aki qualifies to play for Joe Schmidt's side after spending three impressive seasons at Connacht, where he has become a leading light for the western province.

And Best said he and fellow new cap Darren Sweetnam - who is on the bench - should keep doing what they are doing in order to hit the ground running in the Test arena.

"They're picked for a reason," he said. "I think it's just to bring that out and don't sit back and wait for something to happen.

"Especially with Bundee. The reports coming out of Galway from boys like Robbie (Henshaw) is that Bundee runs the show.

"He really has to bring a little bit of that to us, don't just sit back and let other people organise, he has to be the guy that has to step up.

"If Johnny (Sexton) is out of the play; in a ruck or having carried or whatever, to step up and be the guy to make a play. That's what he's been doing and it's important he does that.

"Ultimately - go out and enjoy it. These are special days, to be lucky enough to win on your first cap at home against a team like South Africa is special.

"I think it's a shame if you look back, on Monday or Tuesday or in five or 10 years' time and look back and think, 'I didn't enjoy any of that'.

"You're going to be nervous, so just enjoy the nerves, the ups and downs that go with it, right up to half past five."

Ireland will wear a grey strip at the Aviva Stadium this evening as they open their season against a South Africa team under pressure to finish their own disappointing campaign on a high in Europe.

Best revealed that a long-term decision on his captaincy will be taken at the end of this season, but said he was happy to continue in the role at the start of his third campaign at the helm.

During that time he has led Ireland to a series of memorable wins and he is confident this evening's game can result in another.

"Ultimately, as much as it's an honour to play for Ireland, the greatest honour is to win for Ireland," he said.

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