Friday 23 February 2018

Players can be proud, says Schmidt

Joe Schmidt hugs his captain Rory Best after Ireland's spectacular victory over South Africa
Joe Schmidt hugs his captain Rory Best after Ireland's spectacular victory over South Africa
Joe Schmidt appears elated after the final whistle. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt last night hailed his team for their character under pressure, and described CJ Stander's red card as "very, very harsh" after Ireland's historic win in South Africa.

Schmidt is holding out some hope that the Munster captain will escape further sanction for making contact with Pat Lambie's head when attempting to charge down the Springbok outhalf's kick as his focus turns to winning a Test series on South African soil.

"It's pretty hard to put into words really," Schmidt said. "I thought it was an incredible collective effort - the nine minutes before half-time when we were down to 13 players, to just put them out in the corner, just to scramble and work as hard as the players did to keep them out.

"There was almost a direct repeat at the end of the second half again. To their attacking left-hand corner, we managed to scramble across and three for four players turned up to avoid the try being scored. For the players, I think they can be incredibly proud of the effort they put in."

Ireland required a last-gasp rear-guard action to keep the Boks at bay in scenes that were reminiscent of the All Blacks' win in Dublin in 2013, but captain Rory Best believes his team have moved on since that heartache as he reflected on a "special" day.

"We've come a long way since then," he said. "There were similarities to it, but for us it was about the way we stood up. It's not easy to come here and win, there's a reason no Irish team has ever done it and to do it for just short of 60 minutes with 14 men, it took a lot of character.

"For me, as captain of this 32-man squad, it wasn't just the XV that took the field or the guys that made an impact. I think you tell a lot about the individuals that you have at your disposal by what they do when they're faced with a bit of adversity.

"There was no real panic whenever we went down, we knew it was going to be incredibly tough - but what a way to make history, by having to do something special. We sort of knew we had to keep going at them and at them, because if you sit back against the Springboks and try to soak them, it's just not going to work. They're too big, too physical, too good a rugby team.

"So we knew we had to keep going at them and it's a credit, to a man, the guys who came in off the bench, they really did that."

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