Thursday 19 September 2019

Powerful Boks look to have too much

Allister Coetzee Picture: Reuters
Allister Coetzee Picture: Reuters
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

This first Test represents Ireland's best shot at history in South Africa. Playing at sea-level against a Springbok team together for the first time since the World Cup and under the influence of a new coach in Allister Coetzee, there is a chance at catching the home side cold.

Victory would keep this series alive for all three games, regardless of what happens at altitude in Johannesburg next week, and would infuse Joe Schmidt's new-look side with confidence.

Unfortunately, the bookies are not looking favourably on the tourists' chances of success.

Shorn of the influence of six centrally contracted players including Johnny Sexton, the prospects of a victory look remote at the atmospheric Newlands.

Schmidt is hoping that a new generation of leaders emerges on this tour. He has talked up Paddy Jackson's capacity to run the backline, but the more experienced players like Rory Best, Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner and Conor Murray must step up.

Up front, Mike Ross' sole responsibility is to control Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira's influence at scrum-time, while Toner and Best will hope to control the lineout against the talented second-row pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager.

Primary possession will be key against a team that features six of the pack that played in the World Cup semi-final and will look to out-muscle their opponents.

Ireland need to get CJ Stander and Iain Henderson on the ball, while Jordi Murphy has a job on his hands against Siya Kolisi and Francois Louw at the breakdown.

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If Ireland can't disrupt the Springbok flow, then they could be in trouble in defence where Andy Farrell is introducing his new system to a scrum-half, out-half and centre pairing with limited experience of playing alongside one another.

Ultimately, the hosts appear to have too much power, even if Ireland have a dynamic bench who can have an influence if the game is tight. That will be the hard part. This is Ireland's best chance, but it remains a long shot.

Verdict: South Africa

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