Sunday 15 December 2019

Defeat tough to take for Best

Team captains Adriaan Strauss and Rory Best after the game. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Team captains Adriaan Strauss and Rory Best after the game. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Rory Best's powers of persuasion will be tested to the maximum in the next couple of days as the Ireland captain attempts to lift his troops for one last effort at the end of this longest season.

The Ulster hooker watched on in horror as the Springboks overpowered his side in the final quarter to take this three-Test series to a decider in Port Elizabeth next Saturday, having been replaced with 22 minutes to go.

And, while he expressed his disappointment with the way Ireland squandered a 16-point lead to relinquish their hold on the series, he was keen to emphasise that next week's meeting is another opportunity for his side to make history and follow the Lions and New Zealand into the history books by winning a three-match duel on South African soil.

The momentum is firmly with the home side, who ran in four tries after half-time, but Best believes Ireland can come back. "It's incredibly frustrating and disappointing, but we know now that it's one-all. We go to Port Elizabeth with a chance to win a Test series over here," he said.

"The important thing over the next 24 hours is that we have to take this loss on the chin, you sometimes have to let these losses dwell in you a little bit and come out the other side stronger.

"We'll look back and I'm sure there's a lot of boys in that changing room who won't be looking forward to the review come Monday morning.

"But it's something that we know as a squad and a team, that that's what makes you stronger, it's learning from that and knowing that, if we get ourselves in that position next week, we don't make the same errors we did this week.

"It's going to be a big investment for us, but ultimately we came here to win a Test series and we're in with a shout of doing that. We'll hurt for a little bit, then we'll dust ourselves down and we'll take a big stride forward to try and improve the last quarter next week."

Best says Ireland can take confidence from how they handled the opening half of the game, as they steadily built a 19-3 half-time lead and reduced Ellis Park to booing their side off at half-time.

"There was a big onslaught in the first 10 minutes, but we kept our composure and worked our way around the pitch and we got ourselves into the game really well," he said.

"We talked about making sure we didn't let the emotion or the physicality that they would bring get the better of us.

"We did that, to come here and play the way we did for 50, 60 minutes is a positive in itself.

"But we're a highly competitive team and we'll dwell more on the last quarter.

"It's very tough to take. For large parts, for the first two-thirds of the game, we did everything we could.

"We were physical, we got off the line, we held the ball well and to give up that lead... a lot those things which we feel we can control and things we talked about doing, we didn't do.

"They got around the corner, they carried and we started to soak tackles, which is something that, even before we left Dublin, we talked about it, that if we get physically get beaten up by South Africa around the fringes, we're going to be on the back foot and if you go on the back foot against a team like this, you're going to be struggling."

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