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Countdown To Croker: Three Days To Go

Countdown To Croker: Three Days To Go

…de Villiers Drafted Into Sprinboks Squad…Flashback – November 13, 2004 – Ireland 17 South Africa 12…Lions Tour Boosts South African Economy…Say What?…Numbers Game…

DE VILLIERS DRAFTED INTO SPRINGBOKS SQUAD: Munster centre Jean de Villiers will link up with the South Africa squad in Dublin on Thursday, as the tourists continue to be blighted by injuries.

de Villiers, a key figure during the Springboks’ recent Tri Nations-winning campaign, has been drafted into the squad to replace Adi Jacobs, who has been ruled out of Saturday’s Test against Ireland due to an ankle injury.

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The squad injuries have forced South Africa coach Peter de Villiers to delay his team announcement until Thursday as the ‘Boks medical staff work over-time on the players.

Team doctor Craig Roberts said, earlier in the week, that eight players were being treated for a variety of injuries and that a clearer picture on their availability would only be possible later in the week.

Those on the injury list include full-back Zane Kirchner (knee), scrum half Fourie du Preez (hand), lock Bakkies Botha (back), hooker Bismarck du Plessis (ribs), flank Schalk Burger (ribs), hooker Adriaan Strauss (back) and Leinster prop CJ van der Linde (hamstring).

FLASHBACK – NOVEMBER 13, 2004 – IRELAND 17 SOUTH AFRICA 12: South Africa’s hopes of a first Grand Slam tour since 1961 were ended at Lansdowne Road as Ronan O’Gara inspired Ireland to a first win over the Springboks in 39 years.

Back in 1965, the tourists endured an infamous ‘Black April’, losing 9-6 in Dublin. In 2004, at the same venue, the ‘Boks were undone again by a determined display from the hosts.

Taking centre stage, out-half O’Gara scored all of Ireland’s points, including a cheeky tap-and-go try on 21 minutes.

The five-point victory must rank as one of the most important victories of Eddie O’Sullivan’s coaching tenure.

Since March 2003 when David Humphreys hit four penalties in a 15-12 Six Nations triumph over France in Dublin, Ireland have played four of the world’s top five sides on eight occasions – winning just once – so this one means a lot.

Jake White’s visitors simply had no answer to the all-action Irish, relying on the right boot of full-back Percy Montgomery – who kicked four penalties from five attempts – to play them back into a pulsating game.

Returning Irish wing Denis Hickie almost glided in on a Shane Horgan pop pass in the early exchanges, but New Zealand referee Paul Honiss, who has famously officiated over Ireland’s last two wins over England, and Brian O’Driscoll’s three-try blitz in Paris four years ago, ruled the pass forward.

O’Gara, perhaps sensing something greater, offered up the chance of a straight shot at goal on 19 minutes as Ireland garnered three close-in penalties from the ‘Boks – with De Wet Barry twice the guilty party.

Ireland’s risk paid off when two minutes later, with Honiss having signalled for captain John Smit to talk to his players regarding their infringing, O’Gara took a quick tap to gleefully sprint over from 10 yards.

The Irish number 10’s convert hit the post and with Geordan Murphy producing a heroic ankle-tap on Montgomery minutes later, the home side looked in good shape.

Montgomery did reply from a penalty on 26 minutes, but missed a straight-on second two minutes later from further out.

That proved crucial as Ireland’s barracking play, combined with a second half sin-binning for IRB Player of the Year nominee Schalk Burger, kept Irish noses in front.

Salt was rubbed into South African wounds on 34 minutes as O’Gara showed pin-point accuracy to drop a 35-metre goal.

An 8-3 lead at the break was buffered by O’Gara’s first penalty success three minutes after the restart.

Although Wales-based Montgomery quickly replied, two further strikes from O’Gara, the first on 52 minutes with Burger off the field for killing the ball and the second with 16 minutes remaining, had Ireland purring. 

Burger’s second sin-binning in the space of seven days would have done little for White’s blood pressure as his side looked increasingly like suffering their first defeat since July.

A late tackle on ever-ready Irish skipper O’Driscoll had summoned up O’Gara’s second penalty and an impressive 17-6 home lead, but as expected the ‘Boks mounted a comeback.

With Burger returning to the fray and CJ van der Linde beefing up the front row, South Africa garnered two late penalties, both kicked with aplomb by Montgomery, but with time running out and Ireland’s defence resolute – five points was as close as they got.

IRELAND: Girvan Dempsey; Geordan Murphy, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Shane Horgan, Denis Hickie; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Reggie Corrigan, Shane Byrne, John Hayes, Malcolm O’Kelly, Paul O’Connell, Simon Easterby, Johnny O’Connor, Anthony Foley.

Replacements used: Marcus Horan for Corrigan (69 mins), Eric Miller for O’Connor (75). Not used: Frankie Sheahan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Guy Easterby, David Humphreys, Kevin Maggs.

SOUTH AFRICA: Percy Montgomery; Breyton Paulse, Marius Joubert, De Wet Barry, Ashwin Willemse; Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Fourie du Preez; Os Du Randt, John Smit (capt), Eddie Andrews, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, AJ Venter, Joe van Niekerk.

Replacements used: Gerrie Britz for Burger (16-23 mins, blood sub), CJ van der Linde for Andrews (71). Not used: Hanyani Shimange, Danie Rossouw, Michael Claassens, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie. 

Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)

LIONS TOUR BOOSTS SOUTH AFRICAN ECONOMY: The 2009 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa boosted the South African economy to the tune of almost R1,5bn, a study commissioned by SA Rugby has revealed.

The public interest in the ten-match series, and the impact of the arrival of 37,000 visitors from Britain and Ireland, generated R1,47bn in direct and indirect value to the travel and tourism gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa.

The six-week tour produced close to a tenth (8,95%) of South Africa’s annual tourism GDP (based on 2008 figures), revealed the survey prepared by Octagon Marketing in conjunction with Kamilla-SA Sport and Tourism Consultancy and Umcebisi Business Advisors.

The study also reported that there were high levels of satisfaction expressed by respondents with both the event and South Africa as a sports tourism destination.

Andy Marinos, acting managing director of SA Rugby, said: “A Lions tour ranks only behind the Rugby World Cup in terms of its scale and appeal. Such a tour places significant demands on a rugby union and its member unions but also brings many benefits.

“One of the most profound is the economic impact it has on the hosting nation.

“Preparing, hosting and moving around large numbers of rugby fans is a complex exercise but the most pleasing thing is that the large number of overseas visitors had an outstanding experience in South Africa.”

The survey was conducted among 812 overseas and South African rugby tourists who spent at least one night outside their city of residence during the tour.

The study found that supporters spent on average R44,622 during the Series and stayed for an average of 16 days.

The majority of respondents (70%) were experiencing their first Lions tour, making up a large part of the 17,500 travel packages that were sold.


“The Irish have a great team and they have shown in the Six Nations this year how good they are. They have also had a good run of results recently.

“This Test is no different to any we have played so far this year and we are preparing for it in that way.”

– South Africa coach Peter de Villiers speaks of the high regard he holds Ireland in ahead of his side’s Croke Park clash with the Grand Slam champions

“You don’t want to remain the same player mentally or physically. It’s very much a personal thing, how you’re really feeling about your own game, how your body is physically.

“You have to be greedy in what you want to achieve from your career and keep wanting more. That’s certainly how we looked at it last year and coming into this year.

“Put to one side anything you’ve won or achieved up to now because you want to get as much as you can from the rest of your career.

“When you retire, you can look back on all those things but it doesn’t help to think about them while playing.

“I am working with physios and doing a lot of core work. I do a session a week for a stiff back and strengthening those areas and I’ve started this year doing a lot more strengthening and stretching.

“It has made a big difference and is probably more important for me than weights at this stage.”

– Ireland flanker David Wallace speaks about the drive to further his Test career at 33, moving on from the Grand Slam success and keeping himself match fit 

“I regret South Africa’s recent results because it means we’re now being lined up.

“They’ve beaten the Lions and have won the Tri Nations so will be disappointed at the way things have gone in the last couple of matches.

“But not many teams go to the south of France and win. That’s the one they’ll be disappointed with.

“This will be the last game of their season and we know we’re bit of a target. Because of their recent results we know they’ll have targeted us even more.

“Beating us on our own patch would be a fine end to the season.”

– Ireland coach Declan Kidney feels his side will be something of a target for the Springboks, after their recent loss to France and last week’s hard-fought 32-10 victory over Italy


41 – Hooker Sean Cronin became the 41st Connacht player to be capped at Test level by Ireland last weekend, coming on as a late replacement for Jerry Flannery in the 41-6 win over Fiji.

The 23-year-old, nicknamed ‘Pooch’, is also the first player attached to the Buccaneers club to earn an Irish senior cap

102 – Next Saturday will see Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll move up to joint-seventh in the list of most capped players in world rugby. Australian great George Gregan still leads the way on 139 caps.

With 96 caps for Ireland and six with the Lions, O’Driscoll will move on 102 Test caps, going level with Percy Montgomery (South Africa) and Stephen Larkham (Australia)

5 – Ronan O’Gara, who will be on the bench for Saturday’s game, has started Ireland’s last five Tests against South Africa. He wore the number 10 jersey for the clashes in 2000, 2004 (3) and 2006. Connacht legend Eric Elwood was Ireland’s starting out-half for the 1998 meeting with the Springboks at Lansdowne Road