Ireland full-back Rob Kearney believes the confidence gained by South Africa from their recent 27-25 victory over the All Blacks will see them looking for a clean sweep in their four November Tests.
South Africa are unchanged from that last Rugby Championship outing and with games against Ireland, England, Italy and Wales pencilled in this month, they will be hoping to carry that form into their European tour.
“(The result would give them a) huge amount of confidence, I imagine. We didn’t beat them (New Zealand). We stayed within two points and we got a lot of confidence from that game,” said Rob Kearney, referencing Ireland’s dramatic defeat last November.
“I can only imagine what it has done to South Africa. They are probably the form team in the world right now. They are going to be coming over here and they will be looking for clean slates and we need to get out of the blocks really, really early. That is going to be the key to it.”
Kearney himself has just returned from a spell on the sidelines which saw him play just five of Leinster’s first nine games this season. He was sidelined for both of their European Champions Cup wins over Wasps and Castres Olympique.
However, the Louth man has put his back problems, along with a hamstring niggle over the last few weeks, behind him. He is expecting a massive challenge from a team that has been built around 20 year-old sensation Handré Pollard.
“The introduction of Pollard has changed up their game plan a huge amount. He takes the line on very well. His first instinct is to run as opposed to Morne Steyn who was a lot more of a kicking out-half. It is simply down to him and the changes that he has brought to his game.
“There is a huge onus on us to make sure we hit the ground running. They probably have a little bit of an advantage coming off the back of a really strong Rugby Championship and have been together a couple of months. But it’s not an excuse. We need to start early and that is going to be a key to the game.”
Joe Schmidt has put his faith in the new centre partnership of Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw for the test and Kearney feels both have enough experience at provincial level to make the grade at international level.
Henshaw will add to his three caps gained against Canada and the USA as well as a 14-minute cameo against Australia. Schmidt said he is confident both players are ready and it is a combination that excites Kearney.
“It’s really exciting. They compliment each other really well. They are big lads, the biggest centre partnership we have seen in a long time. Robbie brings a really good freshness and youth there and although Jared is in for cap number 1, he brings a huge amount of experience to his game as well.
“When you go into these big games, the one thing that I know the two guys will give is 100% commitment and a huge level of physicality. Once you bring that into any game, regardless of the size of it, we will be well on our way.
“Okay, they may not have played that combination together, or Robbie might not have played a huge amount at 12 but sometimes that can be overplayed a little bit and if you bring a huge amount of aggression, physicality and commitment, it makes up for a huge amount of the rest.”