Preview: South Africa v Ireland

Date published: June 10 2016

1022.6666666666666x767__origin__0x0_South_Africa_v_Ireland_Preview_newlands_2016

All the pressure will be on the Springboks as Ireland kick off their three-Test tour of South Africa at Newlands on Saturday.

Ireland have never beaten the Boks on South African soil – in seven attempts – but there is no danger of new coach Allister Coetzee expecting an easy win in his first Test at the helm.

And for good reason. Ireland, although weakened by the absence of a few star players, are still the team that outsmarted and outplayed the touring Boks in Dublin the last time these teams clashed, in 2014. 

In Kiwi head coach Joe Schmidt, Ireland have one of the craftiest operators in the world game. With massive expectation weighing on the home side to launch a new era in style, there is plenty of room to slip up. 

Modern rugby works in four-year cycles and Saturday represents the start of what is potentially a pivotal period in South African rugby. 

A long trophy drought, increasing political pressure to field a 'transformed' team, a player-drain crisis and an expectant public that is demanding a more entertaining brand of rugby from the national side all combine to make Coetzee's era a crossroads for the direction the Springboks could take. 

So far, so good for the ex-Stormers coach whose selections have largely been greeted with satisfaction. But Coetzee will be acutely aware of how quickly the knives will come out if things go badly this weekend. 

On paper, the Springbok should have the firepower up front to lay the platform for what has the potential to be a very exciting attack featuring some fresh blood. 

But it won't come easily. In the likes of Iain Henderson in the second row, Ireland have the ability to compete not only physically but to disrupt the all-important Bok set piece. In Robbie Henshaw they have one of the most exciting runners in Europe and his shift from inside to outside centre should also give him more room to display his offloading skills. 

Don't expect anything flash from the home side early on. They will look to their locks and big ball carriers to set the tone physically before the relatively inexperienced backs are given room to roam. 

Schmidt has already hinted that they may looks to turn the Boks around with kicks in behind the defence, in similar fashion to that win in 2014 and the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final. It's in these situations that the hosts cannot afford to make mistakes. 

How the result is achieved will be far less important for Coetzee than the result itself. Victory must come at all costs and it is that pressure that Ireland will look to prey upon. 

The last time these teams met: Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe both scored as Ireland put on a tactical masterclass to win 29-15 at the Aviva Stadium in 2014. The Springboks were behind 13-3 in the second half but Marcell Coetzee went over for a try to narrow the gap to just three points. But any hopes of a comeback went out the window when Adriaan Strauss received a yellow card for tackling the airborne Rob Kearney. Springbok paceman JP Pietersen went over for a consolation try in the 80th minute but Bowe's score and Johnny Sexton's 16 points saw Ireland to a fully-merited victory. Sexton executed some brilliant kicks behind the South African defensive line to keep the visitors constantly on the back foot and the hosts had clearly done their homework to neutralise the Bok rolling maul.

Players to watch: 

For South Africa: Lionel Mapoe has had the season of his career so far. The Lions centre ranks second in Super Rugby for tries scored with nine, has made 20 line-breaks and has beaten 28 defenders, making him a seriously dangerous attacker. Mapoe has one cap for the Boks but the electric outside centre should add plenty more to his tally if his run of form continues. Debutant Faf de Klerk takes the reins at 9 and the Springboks will be looking to the 24-year-old to bring an 'X-factor' element with this instinctive style, which has made the Lions' attack so deadly. De Klerk is also left footed which will compliment the right-footed Patrick Lambie on his outside. 

For Ireland: Paddy Jackson, who has been groomed as Johnny Sexton's eventual replacement, will start in place of the injured fly-half. As Joe Schmidt put it this week: "He's got big boots to fill but I think his feet will slide in quite nicely." Jackson made his international debut as a 20-year-old in 2013 but the in-form Ulster fly-half makes his first start since the World Cup warm-up match away to Wales last year. He has had a very strong domestic season where he has shown maturity and a refined attacking game. Jackson's provincial team-mate Jared Payne will make his first start for Ireland at full-back after being moved from outside centre, where he has won his previous 14 caps. The former New Zealand U21 full-back has been in exceptional end-of-season form for Ulster and will relish the extra space at the back where he was a real threat for the Crusaders and Blues during his Super Rugby days.  

Head-to-head: The two hookers square off against each other both at the coin toss and at the scrum. New Bok skipper Adriaan Strauss has a wealth of experience in captaining at Super Rugby level and his calmness will be important for a side featuring a handful of rookies at this level. With 94 caps to his name, Rory Best is a veteran campaigner and this will be his tenth game as Ireland captain. A far more fiery character, Best will have to lead by example if Ireland are to match South Africa's physical intensity. Both players will be backed up by leaders in the number eight jerseys as Duane Vermeulen faces Jamie Heaslip. Two of the best players in their position in the world, their tussle will be a highlight.  

Team news: There are plenty of changes from the Springbok side that played at the World Cup. Lambie starts at fly-half with Elton Jantjies on the bench while De Klerk makes his debut at scrum-half. Mapoe dons the 13 jersey to gain his second cap for the Boks but it will be his first start, while Lwazi Mvovo fills the gap left by the absence of Rio-bound Bryan Habana. Siya Kolisi has 13 caps to his name but this will also be his maiden start on the blindside flank. Replacement hooker Bongi Mbonambi is set to make his debut off the bench. 

There are four changes from the Irish starting XV which finished the Six Nations with a 35-25 win over Scotland. Payne's move from midfield to full-back allows Luke Marshall to start at 12 with Robbie Henshaw shifting to outside centre. Up front, the fit-again Iain Henderson comes into the second row (replacing Donnacha Ryan) while Jordi Murphy comes in at openside flanker for Tommy O’Donnell. South African-born CJ Stander starts on the other side of the scrum. 

Form: Ireland are coming off a disappointing Six Nations campaign as they failed to the defend the title, winning just two games against Italy and Scotland. They obliterated the former 58-15 and were fairly convincing against Scotland winning 35-24 in Dublin. But otherwise they drew to Wales and were beaten by England and France. 

South Africa have not played together since the Rugby World Cup in 2015 where they lost 20-18 to the All Blacks in the semi-finals before convincingly beat Argentina 24-13. 

Prediction: Both teams have been injury hit and have new-look sides but the South Africans will not allow the Irish to break their winning streak at home especially at their happy hunting ground of Newlands. South Africa by 10. 

Previous results:
2014: Ireland won 29-15 in Dublin
2012: South Africa won 16-12 in Dublin
2010: South Africa won 21-23 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
2004: South Africa won 31-17 in Bloemfontein

The teams: 

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

Ireland: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Tadgh Furlong, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Craig Gilroy.

Date: Saturday, June 11
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Matthew Carley (England)

COMMENTS