Five key battle areas for the Boks to tame Ireland
Ireland are a team on the rise and victory for the Springboks in Dublin on Saturday would be their best of the season‚ if they can achieve it.
SowetanLIVE has identified five key areas where the outcome will be decided:
Ireland’s all-Lions back row of CJ Stander‚ Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony‚ on paper‚ appears to have the edge. Stander is a brutal carrier and menacing defender and O’Mahony has an engine that doesn’t stop. O’Brien is the best breakdown forward in the northern hemisphere and as a combination they are well settled.
The Boks have great ball carriers in Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ while Francois Louw’s breakdown ability is still among the best in the business. But Du Toit is still essentially a retreaded lock and Louw is not an out-and-out No 8. There is a lack of balance in the Bok back three.
2. Tight five
This is where the Boks come into the game and could edge it.
Eben Etzebeth is playing great rugby and Lood de Jager was back to his 2015 best against the All Blacks last month. Tendai Mtawarira has had his best season since 2009 and returns while Coenie Oosthuizen was superb before injury in the Rugby Championship. If he picks up where he left off then the Boks have no worries.
Hooker Malcolm Marx though‚ is otherworldly and if his throwing-in doesn’t fall apart like it can‚ then the Boks will dominate this area.
Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton are not only Ireland’s starting pair but were also the Lions’ starting duo that levelled the June series against the All Blacks.
Murray’s laser-guided tactical kicking accuracy is matched by his ability to control a game with thought as much as deed. Sexton is a master tactician with the ability to vary his game from an advantage-line threat‚ to standing deep in the pocket. His defence and fierce competitiveness are also vital.
Throw in the Ireland combination’s experience in northern hemisphere conditions and it’s impossible to see how Ireland can’t win if these two are able to dictate.
Ireland’s Rob Kearney has lost a yard of pace over the years but there is hardly a more solid fullback in the game. Coupled with a bazooka-like boot‚ Kearney becomes a territorial threat if the Boks are unable to close him down.
Bok fullback Andries Coetzee has been unspectacular throughout the season. He makes few mistakes but also battles to create at Test level‚ where space at time are at a premium.
How Coetzee copes with Sexton and Murray raining high bombs on him will be a key battle to the outcome of the match.
The Bok bench‚ at least among the forwards‚ is impressive. Props Steven Kitshoff and Wilco Louw would probably start for any other Test team‚ including the All Blacks.
Kitshoff’s loose work in particular is a massive boost for the Boks in the closing stages while Louw will scrum any opponent into dust. Lock Franco Mostert is another who will bring high energy from the wood and Handré Pollard has the ability to turn a game.
If the Boks are close going into the last quarter‚ the bench could win it for them.