12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
It should be rememberd that the last time they had played together as a team was against Scotland at the end of March while the majority of those who turned out last week-end hadn't played a competitive match for an entire month.
In contrast the Springboks had gone into a three week camp straight from Super 12 competition and although they had been riven by injury, crucially perhaps they did have the benefit of that warm up a week before the first Test.
Boks coach Jake White was rightly proud of his side's performance set against a backround of internal wrangling and the loss of key players in the run up to his first Test as head coach. "To get a win against Ireland after they've had such a great season was really very important for us. " he said.
" What we're trying to do is prepare a side for the upcoming international tour games.
" Remember we had a very inexperienced side out there last week. They could quite easily have paniced in the second half when they went down after such a good start. But credit the players they held themselves together. I was very proud of them."
Ireland may well have been caught a little flat by the intensity of the Boks challenge but it should also be remembered that some of the tries they conceded were the result of rudimentary errors - in particular the second Bakkies Botha try.
Those errors were referred to by Eddie O'Sullivan afterwards when he said, "A few of the tries we coughed up were our own mistakes. The try from the line-out five metres out was a killer, that was seven points. Another one where we actually had the ball gave it up, their number 8 ran nearly to the line. All those things go against you on the day. It's just disappointing."
Botha will not feature in the game today and no matter what is said by either camp his absence will be felt. His restart catching and strong running caused Ireland all sorts of bother in Bloemfontein so he will not be missed by the Irish this afternoon.
The conditions today will also favour the Irish although again, O'Sullivan and indeed the players refused to factor playing at altitude as a reason for the defeat. "I'm not sure if it did play a part. We did look very sluggish even at the very start. The Boks had been up there for three weeks and were well acclimatized. We didn't have the luxury of coming up two or three weeks ahead of time So you have to come in at the last minute which we did. That's the way it goes. You can do nothing about it. I'm sure they brought us there for a good reason at the start of the tour."
The Irish did end that match last week attacking the Springboks line and were perhaps a little unlucky not to get the final try. Not that it would have affected the outcome, but the point is their backs still looked full of running at the end.
Criticism of the Irish management for not organising a warm-up game is unjustified. There seems little point in adding an extra fixture - an amost certain abrasive one if played against a South African side - to an already over-loaded system.
As things turned out, that first Test will have to suffice as a warm-up and it will certainly have removed the ring-rustinesss the Irish seemed to suffer.
So it's all to play for today and the original objective is still very much within the grasp of this Irish side.
"This weekend we have the chance to reverse that result." says O'Sullivan."
We were very disappointed that we didn't do ourselves justice with that performance. The good news is today we have the chance to put that right.
" We've got to set about doing that. Get ourselves organized for what's going to be a very tough Test. We have to believe we can beat them. And we can if we just do certain things better than we did last Saturday and maybe not do some of the things we did do. "
The one factor that could mitigate against an Irish win and which cannot be determined is fatigue, mental as much as physical. It's been a long season by any standards and whether whether or not fatigue is an issue will not become apparent until the game gets underway.
If it is not a factor, this Ireland side have it within themselves to write themselves into the history books this afternoon. And no better place to do so than Newlands Park in Cape Town. It never gets easy, Test rugby. But it's always easier to go back to the second Test when you've won as opposed to pick yourself up losing the first one.
Ireland: G Dempsey (Leinster); G Murphy (Leicester), B O'Driscoll (Leinster) capt, S Horgan (Leinster), T Howe (Ulster); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); R Corrigan (Leinster), S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Easterby (Llanelli), D Wallace (Munster), A Foley (Munster). Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster), M Horan (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), A Quinlan (Munster), G Easterby (Rotherham), D Humphreys (Ulster), K Maggs (Bath)
South Africa: P Montgomery (Newport Gwent Dragons); B Paulse (Stormers), M Joubert (Stormers), W Julies (Cats), J Fourie (Cats); J van der Westhuyzen (Leicester), F du Preez (Bulls); O du Randt (Cats), J Smit (Sharks), capt, E Andrews (Stormers), B Botha (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), P Wannenburg (Bulls), J Cronje (Bulls). Replacements: H Shimange (Cats), CJ van der Linde (Cats), Q Davids (Stormers), G Britz (Cats), J Conradie (Stormers), G du Toit (Stormers), B Russell (Sharks).
Referee: Jokl Jutge (France).