Thursday 22 August 2019

Five things we learned from Ireland's hammering of South Africa

The intricacies of the scrum are caught on camera as Tadhg Furlong (L) does battle with South Africa’s Malcolm Marx and Siya Kolisi. Photo: Reuters
The intricacies of the scrum are caught on camera as Tadhg Furlong (L) does battle with South Africa’s Malcolm Marx and Siya Kolisi. Photo: Reuters
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Record hammering of Springboks leaves plenty of optimism for season ahead

1 Young stars point to a bright future

The party line from the Ireland camp was that the scoreline flattered Joe Schmidt's men, but few would agree. Ireland were vastly superior in every facet and might even have scored more than four tries had they not got caught up in avoiding being dragged down to South Africa's level during the third quarter.

The team that finished the game - with Joey Carbery pulling the strings, James Ryan in the engine room and Jacob Stockdale running riot - pointed to a bright future. Against Fiji this weekend, we are likely to see even more of the next generation, and they will be expected to hit the same lofty standards.

Given how poor the Springboks were, Schmidt and his squad understandably weren't getting ahead of themselves but by the same token, they deserve to take the plaudits, while everyone else looks to the season ahead, and beyond, with giddy excitement.

2 Schmidt's tactical nous sets him apart 

We often underappreciate how effective a game-plan is when the basics are executed to perfection but under Schmidt, it's what sets his teams apart.

All week, the Boks had spoken about Ireland's line-speed but they had no answer to Andy Farrell's blitz defence. Granted, Ireland's half-backs are another planet to South Africa's in terms of their quality - the difference in their kicking games was glaring.

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At this stage, opposition teams know what Ireland's strengths are but counteracting them continues to prove problematic, particularly in Dublin.  Ireland bided their time before tearing the Boks defence to shreds, after sucking the life and indeed the fight out of them.

The hosts scored three of their four tries in the final 10 minutes but that just underlines how they relentlessly wear down opponents.

3 Aki slots seamlessly into Ireland's systems

The script had been written.

From the moment Bundee Aki hurled himself full-blooded at Coenie Oosthuizen, the roar that greeted the hit confirmed that the Connacht centre had arrived on the international stage.

To slot so seamlessly into Farrell's system was a mark of his talent but there was no doubt that Aki benefited from playing alongside his former provincial team-mate Robbie Henshaw.

Aki put in 15 tackles - only CJ Stander managed more with 16 - and while he didn't quite get the chance to showcase his attacking power, there is still plenty to come from him in a green jersey. Aki was hugely animated throughout as he relished his first taste of international rugby and looked thrilled to share the moment with his family after the full-time whistle.

4 Ireland's scrum is still a potent weapon 

We have almost come to expect it but even still, the work that Greg Feek has done with the Ireland scrum deserves huge credit. 

Another 100pc record at scrum time was no more than what Feek and Co will demand but doing so against a bruising Springbok pack and then winning two against the head represented another excellent night at the office.

Tadhg Furlong had the edge on Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira, while Jack McGrath will have been watching on nervously as Cian Healy again impressed. Even when the front-row was changed, Dave Kilcoyne, Rob Herring and John Ryan didn't relinquish Ireland's dominance.  Teams now fear Ireland's scrum, and for good reason.

5 Erasmus has a big job on his hands back home

Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber will have been sitting uncomfortably at Lansdowne Road on Saturday as they pondered the scale of the job that they have on their hands. 

Allister Coetzee's time in charge will soon come to an end and while Erasmus is good enough to change the Boks' fortunes, it will take time. Johann van Graan will leave this sinking ship after the France game this weekend, and judging on this evidence, a fresh start will be just what he needs.

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