Saturday 25 November 2017

Ireland lying in wait for Boks like a lion in the grass -- Smith

Peter Bills

His South African background means his choice of analogy is almost certainly influenced by his past but the stark message from Franco Smith, former Cheetahs' coach in the Super 14, is that Ireland are in prime position to scalp the Springboks for the second time in a year when they meet today.

Smith, now coach of Magners League side Benetton Treviso, said, "Ireland are lying in wait for the Springboks, like a lion in the grass. They realise South Africa are vulnerable, not at their best.

"The Irish have a good chance to build their own confidence with another victory against the world champions. I think they will be very well prepared.

"Ireland are definitely the strongest of the northern hemisphere teams at the moment. Leinster, Munster and Ulster have all played strongly and effectively at times this season. They are the hot sides."

Smith warns that Springbok supporters cannot expect miracles from what looks an understrength South African side.

"Obviously this is not the best squad the Springboks could have brought over for this tour. It might be the best available but not their best at all," he said.

"It is a good opportunity for the selectors to see what depth they have got. But I don't expect magical results from them at this stage and Ireland should surely win. They have a much more settled side with a lot of experience, especially behind the scrum."

Smith, one of the shrewdest observers of world rugby, says that the South Africans must up both their intensity and skill levels during the course of this tour.

"But that won't happen overnight," he said. "I don't think we will see this South African side play much different to normal. They will try to dominate in first phase but as for Ireland, they must play to their style.

"If you don't have the players every day, it's risky to try and adopt a new style in the last year before a World Cup."

But Smith reckons the Springboks missed a glorious opportunity last year to make significant changes. "Playing at this level is definitely a big step up from the Currie Cup, which is what the South Africans have been playing for the last eight weeks or so.

"It will be very difficult for a lot of these players, especially the younger ones. The main objective of the tour has to be to broaden their selection base for the World Cup.

"Hopefully some of the young guys will make the step up because South Africa needs to see the next era of young players emerging."

Irish Independent

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