Tuesday 20 February 2018

'They're passionate about the green jersey'- Ireland's South African trio keen to make a mark at home

7 June 2016; CJ Stander of Ireland during squad training in Westerford High School, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
7 June 2016; CJ Stander of Ireland during squad training in Westerford High School, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Cape Town

Ireland’s trio of South Africans will be desperate to show their home country what they are missing when they go up against the Springboks in the coming weeks according to forwards coach Simon Easterby.

CJ Stander and Richardt Strauss are likely to feature against the World Cup semi-finalists at Newlands this weekend, with Quinn Roux also in the squad and all three are likely to be the centre of attention if selected during the three-Test series.

All three qualified to play for Ireland through residency having been signed by Irish provinces. Strauss came in for some treatment when he faced his native country on his debut in Dublin in 2012, but this will be the first time all three have returned as Irish players.

And the former Scarlets coach says they are relishing the opportunity.

“CJ’s shown with his form over the last three seasons with Munster, he’s been outstanding. He’s been a real talisman for them. He’s come into our Six Nations squad and done particularly well,” Easterby said.

“He plays with his heart on his sleeve and is a real leader. He’ll be emotional at the weekend along with Quinn and Richardt. They are guys that are very passionate about where they were brought up but hugely passionate about wearing the green jersey.

“To a man that has come through, not just in this week since arriving in South Africa, but also the build-up. You get a sense that they’ve very keen to show the country that they were born in what they’re missing.”

Ireland have no injury worries going into the first Test which will come as a relief to Joe Schmidt who lost a quartet of first-choice backs last week.

And, while the touring side are missing a host of important players including Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien, Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo and Rob Kearney; Easterby is hoping others step up and fill the void.

“Every team will travel I’m sure from the northern hemisphere this summer without certain players; we’re no different. What it does do is to allow us to view these players up close for the next three weeks,” he said.

“Players who have stood up domestically in the Pro12 throughout the season have been given the opportunity. It will build some depth and they can lay a marker down for the guys that aren’t here and that’s always a challenge for when we return home for next season.

“For me, it’s great. We build some depth looking ahead to 2019 and we’ll find out a lot about players in a really intense environment against one of the best sides in the world.”

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