Which version of the Boks will rock up to the Aviva

Which version of the Boks will rock up to the Aviva

Ireland Rugby Squad Training, IRFU High Performance Centre, Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, Dublin 27/10/2022

IRELAND'S Rugby World Cup prep officially begins with the visit of world champions South Africa to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, as Andy Farrell’s side look to take another high-profile southern hemisphere scalp in this calendar year.

This November International is a meeting of the world’s number one and number three ranked team’s on the planet right now, with Ireland occupying top spot over France. 

Given that France were worthy Six Nations winners earlier this year and that South Africa are the current world champions these ranking must be taken with a pinch of salt, but it does illustrate how consistent Ireland have been over the past two years.

The main reason for the lofty ranking is undoubtedly the summer Series victory down in New Zealand, when Andy Farrell’s side recovered from losing the opening Test to convincingly win the final two Tests, and the historic Series to boot.

New Zealand went on to win the subsequent Rugby Championship despite being well beaten in the opening round by the Springboks and then losing to Argentina for the first time ever on home soil. 

Only last week they stumbled to a 31-38 win over Japan, so the jury is still out as to how good the All Black side that Ireland beat actually is.

South Africa beat them once and then lost to them a week later, while also managing to lose to a struggling Australia, as they seemed to lose their way briefly, but they finished off their campaign with three impressive victories, scoring fourteen tries in comfortable wins of Australia and Argentine twice.

The big question for Ireland is, which version of the Boks will rock up to the Aviva Stadium this Saturday?

One can’t help get the feeling that South Africa’s motivation levels only ever really hit top gear at World Cup time or when the Lions come calling. They have won the World Cup on three occasions, with the first arriving in 1995. 

Since Francois Pienaar famously lifted the winning trophy in ‘95 they have only managed to win four Rugby Championship titles, while they have also won their last two Series against the British and Irish Lions, so those stats would appear to back up that feeling.

Therefore, we can surmise that the Springbok side that Ireland play on Saturday will bear little relation to the one they will face on the 23rd of September of next year at the Stade de France in Ireland’s third game in Pool B at the World Cup. 

That will be a South African team in full destruct mode who will no doubt look to dominate Ireland physically. 

They may not feel the need to do this ten months out from that crunch game.

Despite this, we can still expect certain areas of the Irish team to be tested. Ireland do not have the biggest second rows in world rugby and South Africa will undoubtedly target us here. 

They will also probably see a weakness in the Irish front row, even if they have to wait until late on, when the Bomb Squad come off the bench and don’t have to face Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter at that late stage of the game.

The collisions are likely to be bone shuddering, while their back three of Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Makazole Mapimpi may just be the most exciting in world rugby, meaning you simply cannot afford to kick lose ball in their vicinity.

Lukhanyo Am and Handre Pollard are huge absentees at 13 and 10, respectively, meaning Damian Willemse starts at outhalf for the Boks, as Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber look to build depth at 10 for next year’s bid at retaining the William Webb Ellis trophy. Needless to say, their pack is fully loaded.

Ireland are in that familiar position of having peaked over a year out from the World Cup. 

Previous experience would tell us that it is extremely difficult to maintain such a level of performance for over a year, and the nature of being at a peak means that Ireland coach Andy Farrell is unlikely to be doing much experimenting over the course of these Autumn Internationals, or the Six Nations tournament in the spring, so there are unlikely to be many World Cup bolters in green.

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