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Schmidt: Springboks Have Shown ‘Super’ Form

Schmidt: Springboks Have Shown ‘Super’ Form

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt expects South Africa to start with the free-flowing rugby which they ended the Rugby Championship with when the sides clash at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday week.

Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks finished second in the Rugby Championship table despite back-to-back wins in their final two games against Australia and the All Blacks during which they scored seven tries.

That fine finish to the campaign included a rampaging eight-minute spell against the Wallabies when they crossed the whitewash three times in quick succession.

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“To score three tries in the last eight minutes, you don’t normally see that with a South African side. They have been worth every bit of scoring that they have delivered. They have played some super stuff,” explained Joe Schmidt, speaking to the media at the Aviva Stadium earlier today.

“They have got weapons out there. I would be delighted if they weren’t looking to use them but it seems to be a game strategy that they have adopted that we are going to have to be ready for.”

Schmidt pointed to the change in mindset in South African rugby since Meyer took charge in 2012, with the Springboks willing to run the ball from any position.

It is looking like a formidable back-line with the centre partnership between captain Jean de Villiers and 21-year-old Jan Serfontein taking shape – they started the last four Tests of the Rugby Championship – while full-back Willie le Roux and wingers Cornal Hendricks and Bryan Habana played in all six matches.

And with another talented youngster Handre Pollard, who started five Rugby Championship games at out-half, conducting the back-line orchestra, Ireland are going to have to work harder in defence. 

Schmidt highlighted: “One of the things about the South Africans when Pollard plays is they play a lot. The first phase of play in the most recent Test went three minutes and 20 seconds. A South African phase of play traditionally went probably 20 seconds. They would receive and maybe put the ball out if it was deep in their own half.

“They got the ball deep in their own half and they played their way out of the half. I think that is very much a change.

“For us, Les (Kiss) did a super session today defensively. The players are working very hard today. They are going to have to work much harder because that would be an area we’re working pretty hard on, to make sure we are ready for a South African team that is a lot different to the 2007 World Cup-winning team with a very different coaching philosophy as to what Heyneke Meyer has adopted in recent teams.”

While Meyer can call on the experience of 250 caps in the back-line, Schmidt might need to give an opportunity to the likes of Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw and Ian Madigan (pictured below), who has not had much experience at out-half for Leinster this season.

“You’ve got to back people. He (Madigan) has experience of playing Test match rugby at 10. It’s a little bit like Robbie Henshaw. He hasn’t had the experience but they’re good rugby players.

“They understand the game and are players I know pretty well, and Les Kiss and Richie Murphy know pretty well and spent a lot of time with.

“That gives you a confidence even if he hasn’t had the game-time there. Obviously getting the game-time there would be fantastic. Because of Ian’s versatility – he’s a good rugby player wherever you put him, he’s served the province really well.”

Commenting on Nathan White’s ruptured tendon in his upper arm, which will see him miss the GUINNESS Series as part of a 16-week lay-off, Schmidt revealed: “Nathan sustained some tendon damage in his biceps in an incredibly innocuous event, but a frustrating one for both him and us.

“He just caught a player running past him. It was the angle and just the way it happened. It wasn’t even a contact situation.

“It was just one of those innocuous things and it’s massively disappointing when they do, particularly for Nathan and for us. It (tighthead prop) is a position we’ve got some other options and we’ll be watching some of those this weekend.

“Obviously Rodney Ah You is playing for Connacht, Stephen Archer will have some time with Munster, Declan Fitzpatrick will play too, Tadhg Furlong is starting for Leinster at tighthead and Michael Bent is at loosehead.

“Those are our other options. On Monday we will have enough guys in the camp to resource the front row.”

Mike Ross, Ireland’s regular starter in the number 3 jersey, has not played for Leinster since October 4 due to groin trouble but he did train today with Schmidt’s squad.

“Mike Ross is progressing pretty well, so we are quietly confident. He’s taken part in some of the more static aspects of training. And he involves himself in some of the more static aspects of the game, so hopefully he comes through and can be involved in some of those.

“Absolutely it’s a concern (that he has not played since the Leinster-Munster game at the start of the month). But Mike has been working really hard, in his defence. There’s nothing like game conditions though, to bring game awareness. You want guys to have had that – you want it to be second nature, what they are doing.

“If it was a perfect world things might different but you work in the world that’s available to you, and I’d still say it’s an incredibly exciting challenge to play one of the form teams in the world, and certainly one of the top ranked.”

Meanwhile, like White, loosehead prop James Cronin will play no part in the November internationals after confirmation that he sustained a moderate ankle injury during Munster’s Champions Cup game against Saracens. Having met with the specialist, he has been ruled out for at least six weeks.