Springboks host nemesis Ireland as both have point to prove

05 July 2024 - 11:30 By NICK SAID
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Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus during a press conference to announce the team to take on Ireland in the incoming Series Test match on Saturday.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus during a press conference to announce the team to take on Ireland in the incoming Series Test match on Saturday.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

There is one team South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus has failed to beat in a tenure that includes two World Cup triumphs and a British and Irish Lions series win, but the visit of Ireland to Pretoria on Saturday presents another opportunity.

Ireland were the only side to beat South Africa in France last year as the Springboks completed back-to-back World Cup triumphs, and have won their previous three Tests against the South Africans dating back to 2017.

If you take that run further back, Ireland were victorious in five of the previous seven meetings, providing a bloody nose for the Springboks and become something of a bogey side for the record four-times World Cup winners.

Erasmus admitted their struggles against the Irish but played down the significance of that poor form in the greater scheme of things.

“We try to stay in our reality, and our reality is that we are playing at home against the team that has beaten us,” he told reporters.

“All the games were really close, and they deserved (to win) those games. But it’s never, ‘ we have got a score to settle’.

“I I would rather take the two World Cups and a British and Irish Lions series, and take the three losses (to Ireland).”

A glance at his team selection shows how badly Erasmus wants to end the run. Any thoughts he may blood less experienced players on Saturday were dismissed with 20 players in the match day 23 those who lifted the World Cup in France.

The three who were not involved are prop Gerhard Steenekamp, lock Salmaan Moerat and utility back Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who all start on the bench on Saturday.

Ireland have never won a Test series in South Africa, and having broken their duck in New Zealand in 2022, this is something of a final frontier for coach Andy Farrell.

They have been surprisingly infrequent visitors through the years, playing only 10 Tests, of which nine have ended in defeat.

Their only tour since 2004 was in 2016 when they won the first Test but lost the next two.

Farrell is without several of his leading names, not least injured scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park, and has handed a debut to Jamie Osborne at fullback, despite the latter having only played two professional games in the number 15 jersey.

“Whenever he plays, he's got a presence, whatever his position,” Farrell said.

“He is bright, his communication is good, he has nice soft hands and he can hit a line as well.

“He is deceptively quick, good in the air, athletic, big left boot.”


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