Springboks legend says Ireland can only be ‘judged’ when they visit South Africa due to sub-standard Six Nations

Alex Spink
Jasper Wiese and Andrew Porter collide in South Africa v Ireland clash.

Jasper Wiese and Andrew Porter collide in South Africa v Ireland clash.

Rugby World Cup winner Joel Stransky has called for Ireland’s coronation as the new kings of rugby to be delayed until they face South Africa in July.

Welsh greats Jonathan Davies and Sam Warburton hailed Andy Farrell’s men as the best in the business either side of victory over Wales last time out.

With Ireland bound for Twickenham next week to face Steve Borthwick’s misfiring side, bookies have them heavy odds-on favourites to land a fourth Grand Slam in 15 years.

Not yet top dogs

Springbok legend Stransky is fulsome in his praise for the Irish, whose game he describes as “probably the most beautiful in the world to watch at the moment”.

It is the notion Ireland are now rugby’s top dogs that he is not ready to accept.

“There’s no doubt they’re a great side and are still growing,” said the man whose golden boot settled the 1995 World Cup final. “They are the real deal, I love watching them.

“Their line-up is formidable, they play fast, they use the width of the field and every player is a skilful ball handler, each capable of cleaning out and rucking, carrying and running into space, offloading out the tackle and making great decisions.

“It’s quite unique. I don’t think any other team in the world plays quite like it and, rightly, they’re one of the top two teams in the game.

“But I think we will judge them when they come to South Africa.”

Stransky’s reservation is based partly on the patchy overall quality of this year’s Six Nations tournament.

“Down here we look at it at the moment and see England evolving, still trying to work out where they are going,” he said.

“Scotland are playing above their weight in many ways, but France without Dupont are not the French team they were in the build up to the World Cup.

“So we see Ireland and we’re not sure whether they’ve stepped up or everyone else has just come back a yard.”

Ireland beat the Boks at the World Cup and have won three in a row against the Rainbow Nation, five of the last seven, eight of 12 dating back to 2009.

But they have still to reach a first World Cup semi-final whereas South Africa are back-to-back champions.

Stransky added: “There’s definitely some ambiguity around who the best team in the world is.

“To be the best you’ve got to be the best consistently – and Ireland have probably been that.

“But to win the World Cup you have to be great in the great moments, when it really counts, and that’s what we did.”

This is as undeniable as the fact the Test encounters between the countries, in Pretoria and Durban on the first two Saturdays of July, will be must-see.

Stransky likens the anticipation around South Africa to a once-in-12-years British and Irish Lions visit.

He said: “That Ireland tour is a massive milestone for Rassie Erasmus, for Siya Kolisi, for this Springbok team.

“It is a chance to really say, you know, we won the Rugby World Cup. Yes we won the last few games by one point, yes, we were a little fortunate, but we are a great side and we are going to prove it.

“The series will maybe not quite carry the prestige of a World Cup but it will be as important to both teams in terms of their reputation and their goals.

“Both will be out to absolutely prove they are number one in the world.”

Ireland must first get past England and Scotland, who would also be unbeaten but for the hugely contentious ‘no-try’ ruling in favour of France at Murrayfield.

Stransky rates the Scots but sees no threat at Twickenham – even if Borthwick’s men did give the Boks their biggest shock of the World Cup.

“We all know we were dead and buried against England, we should never have won that game,” he said. “We got out of jail. We absolutely got out of jail.

“England had a soft draw through to that semi-final and, fair play, were outstanding on the day. Overall, though, they didn’t play attractive rugby at the World Cup. There were a lot of box kicks. It was dull.

Period of evolution

“I do think they have tried to move on but they’ve got a journey still to travel in that period of evolution. I think they have to decide how they want to play, then pick the players to play that game.

“Oscillating between strategies you end up in the middle of nowhere.”

Victory over England would be Ireland’s 12th consecutive win in the Six Nations, a tournament record, and leave them 80 minutes from becoming the first team since France in 1998 to secure back-to-back Grand Slams.

England’s best hope could be Irish complacency but Stransky rules that out.

“Andy Farrell would never underestimate England at Twickenham,” he said. “There’s no chance of Ireland coming underprepared or overconfident.”

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