Preview: South Africa v Ireland

Date published: June 17 2016

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South Africa face a challenge of gigantic proportions when they take on Ireland in the second Test of their three-Test series in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Boks will have to improve in leaps and bounds if they want to avenge last weekend's 26-20 defeat in the series opener against an Ireland side who played with 14 men for almost an hour, after their South African-born flanker CJ Stander was red carded midway through the first half for a foul on Bok fly-half Pat Lambie.

After taking over the reins amid much fanfare, new Bok coach Allister Coetzee discovered quickly that a defeat at Test level is not taken kindly by his country's supporters and he is already under immense pressure after his first match.

That result highlighted South Africa's inability to to make the most of their dominance in the possession and territorial stakes and although both sides scored two tries, numerous unforced errors and poor discipline led to their downfall.

Experienced Springboks like captain Adriaan Strauss, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth know that they must show considerable improvement on the efforts they delivered in Cape Town if the men in green and gold want to level the series.

The aforementioned quartet formed the backbone of the two-time world champions' pack in many Tests during Heyneke Meyer's tenure as Bok coach and proved during that period that they are amongst the best players in their respective positions in the world.

But last weekend these players didn't come to the party and each one played arguably their worst match at Test level. Strauss and Etzebeth – who in the past were at the forefront of the Boks' dominant forward displays – came off second best in their personal duels with Rory Best and Iain Henderson.

Louw, whose last competitive match before the Newlands Test was more than a month ago for Bath in the Premiership, looked far off the pace while Vermeulen was kept in check by a solid defensive effort from the visitors.

Don't be surprised if Warren Whiteley, who impressed when coming off the bench, is brought on again to up the tempo in the second half. Elsewhere, the performance of the Boks' half-back duo, Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies, will be closely scrutinised.

Jantjies in particular will be expected to provide direction on attack and to bring out the best in the likes of Damian de Allende, Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen and Lionel Mapoe, who all battled to get going with ball in hand in Cape Town.

Ireland meanwhile have their tails up after last weekend's epic result in Cape Town. A victory this weekend will put them in exalted company as it will mean they will become only the third team in the professional era – along with the 1996 All Blacks and the 1997 British and Irish Lions – to win a three-Test series in South Africa.

It will also mean that they become the first Home Nation to win a Test series in South Africa, so there's more than enough motivation in their ranks although it won't be easy as the Springboks seem to lift their game when playing at Ellis Park.

This will be the 48th Test at the venue and in the 47 previous internationals the Boks have won 32, lost 13 and drawn on two occasions. 

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has bulked up his forwards for the expected backlash from their hosts. Like Jantjies, the performance of Ireland's number ten Paddy Jackson should also have a huge bearing on this Test's outcome. 

Jackson's game management paved the way to victory at Newlands and a repeat showing will no doubt bring his side close to emulating that achievement, and add to the home side's woes ahead of the third Test in Port Elizabeth.

Players to Watch

For South Africa: The one man to give the Boks some consistent gainline success in Cape Town was blindside flanker Siyamthanda Kolisi. The Stormers stalwart showed no regard for his own safety as he flung himself into the Irish tacklers all afternoon. His approach worked as he carried nine times, beat two defenders and made 52 metres with ball in hand. He said in the press this week that he wants to carry even better so expect a big game from him. In the absence of Patrick Lambie, Lions fly-half Elton Jantjies will start at 10 for the Boks. The playmaker has been exceptional this season as he deconstructed opposition defences in Super Rugby through some flat attacking play. We saw his potential as he set up a try for Lwazi Mvovo last weekend with a clever inside pass. The number 10 should light a fire under a backline that looked cold last weekend. 

For Ireland: Quinn Roux has been promoted right into the starting line-up. The Pretoria-born second-row will want to prove himself against the country of his birth as he gets his debut in Johannesburg. The Connacht lock stands at 196cm and weighs 124 kg so he, isn't on the slight side. Roux, who played Super Rugby for the Stormers, will know his opponents well and may give Ireland an edge at the lineouts. Jared Payne meanwhile was exceptional at full-back last weekend. He keeps the 15 jersey for the second Test against the Boks and rightly so. The Ulster star scored a try in the 10th minute last weekend which set the pace of the Irish onslaught. He also offloaded five times and ran 75 metres, so the Springboks should be wary of Payne. 

Head-to-head: Faf de Klerk was one of the players who proved their worth for the Springboks last weekend. The fiery number nine provided his team mates with steady distribution as he made 70 passes, while putting in eight tackles, a high number for a scrum-half. The Lions livewire will also be important in giving quick ball to his forwards so they can break the gainline. De Klerk will be up against Conor Murray who had a near perfect game against South Africa. The Munster man made a clean break, beat two defenders and also scored a try for his team. Ireland will look to Murray to build on his momentum and cause havoc for the Springbok's around the ruck. 

Pieter-Steph du Toit will start in the number five jersey but he will have stiff competition in his opposite number Devin Toner who was Man of the Match last weekend. Du Toit who came on in the 55th minute was able to squeeze in six tackles and come up with a crucial interception try. Imposingly tall at 208cm, Toner was instrumental in outmuscling the South Africans. He acted as a battering ram carrying the ball on attack and also in defence. If his previous game's stats are anything to go by, he's going to have another cracker in Johannesburg. 

Prediction: Expect an aggressive backlash from a Springbok side yearning to prove themselves. Ireland will be smart but the South Africans should take it. Springboks by 5. 

Previous results:
2016:
Ireland won 26-20 in Cape Town
2014: Ireland won 29-15 in Dublin
2012: South Africa won 16-12 in Dublin
2010: South Africa won 23-21 in Dublin
2009: Ireland won 15-10 in Dublin
2006: Ireland won 32-15 in Dublin
2004: Ireland won 17-12 in Dublin
2004: South Africa won 26-17 in Cape Town

The teams:

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Ruan Combrinck

Ireland: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Rhys Ruddock, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran

Date: Saturday, June 18
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

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