Tuesday 24 October 2017

Springboks' 'Beast' promises ferocious start against Ireland in series-decider

21 June 2016; Tendai Mtawarira of South Africa during squad training at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
21 June 2016; Tendai Mtawarira of South Africa during squad training at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

With the eminently compelling series resting on a knife-edge, both Ireland and South Africa will be acutely aware the decisive Test in Port Elizabeth on Saturday offers that rare opportunity comprising redemption and glory in equal measure.

While the Springboks spectacularly levelled the series with a four-try salvo in the final quarter in Johannesburg last weekend, they have, in each test, been guilty of starting lethargically. As such, Ireland capitalised on their hosts’ inertia.

By the 34th minute on Saturday, the visitors had accrued a 19-3 lead and, at the hour mark, were 26-10 to the good. Allister Coetzee shrewdly deployed his bench and the aforementioned purple patch ensued, as the two-time world champions emerged as 32-26 victors.

Indeed, in Cape Town a fortnight ago, the new-look Irish team raced into a 7-0 lead by the 11th minute and, even with the dismissal of CJ Stander and Robbie Henshaw’s sin-binning, were on even terms -13-13 - with the ‘Boks at the turn. 

They went on to win by 26-20, an inaugural Irish win on the Springboks’ turf.

Possibly better known for his moniker, ‘Beast’, loose-head prop Tendai Mtawarira told rugby365.com that South Africa were firmly focussed on beginning Saturday’s seismic showdown with a far greater level of intensity.

"I think we are going to have to start much better than what we did this past weekend. We need to make sure that out discipline is really good and avoid making all those little errors that we made when we got into their 22.

"We could have scored a couple of tries and we need to eradicate those (errors) and make sure that we are much better when we get into their attack zone and put a few points on the board to create scoreboard pressure."

With a new coach, captain and in the absence of many stalwarts who have departed for Europe, this is certainly a nascent Springbok outfit.

However, Mtawarira, a seasoned campaigner, claimed that they have been notably imbued by their comeback victory and more than optimistic they can rip a first ever series win on South African soil from the collective grasp of Joe Schmidt And Co.

“This is why you play rugby - for moments like this.  It is a final, so it's definitely a high pressure match and there is not going to be many opportunities. We have to take the ones that come our way.

"Everybody is excited - there is a big buzz in the camp this week. We got some confidence now, so we can really go into this game and believe that we can do it."

Ireland, who will be without Robbie Henshaw and possibly Jared Payne, can also right a grating wrong. Their implosion in Johannesburg is thought to have materialised through an amalgam of fatigue, the suffocating high-veldt and an imprudent use of their replacements.

Furthermore, having come so close, the thought of returning to Ireland without securing a series win in arguably rugby’s most exacting crucible, hardly warrants contemplation. Only the Lions and the All Blacks have managed it, so they’ll certainly be breathing rarefied air in the event of victory at the Nelson Mandela Stadium.

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