Ireland v South Africa will be uncompromising, and last man standing wins this game

Andy Farrell's Ireland are in a great place heading into this month's Autumn internationals
Ireland v South Africa will be uncompromising, and last man standing wins this game

Ireland Rugby Squad Training, IRFU High Performance Centre, Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, Dublin 27/10/2022 Forwards Coach Paul O'Connell and Head Coach Andy Farrell Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

I could be wrong, but I don’t think there is any other country in the world that could field two sides on consecutive days, to play against a New Zealand XV (tonight) and South Africa (tomorrow) and do so feeling confident of achieving success in both games.

During the week Andy Farrell and his coaching ticket amassed a total of 51 bodies for training in preparation for what I believe to be a watershed moment in Irish rugby.

Normally, when the Autumn internationals come around the provinces are littered with injuries and piecing together one reputable side is a bit of an achievement for the Irish coach, however, on this occasion Irish rugby finds itself bursting at the seams with quality players and coming off the historical success of winning a series against the mighty All Blacks during the summer, there is a genuine feeling in the air that Ireland could win next year's World Cup, in France.

Maybe it's an Irish thing that when you give us an inch we take a mile, but even I as the most circumspect of individuals is starting to think that with a bit of luck there is no reason why William Webb Ellis could not be arriving in Dublin airport shortly after the grand final in October 2023.

Yes, RWC France 2023 is a long way off and nothing is certain in sport but considering the structures that the IRFU have in place and the level of control they have over the players, Farrell's goal of having three players in every position that are capable of playing at the pinnacle of the sport is very achievable.

Competing with Ireland in pool B of the World Cup will be Scotland, Tonga, Romania and South Africa and you would like to think that victories over Tonga and Romania are a given and that Scotland will fight hard but fade away. 

So, the key game for Ireland will be against the Springboks, which elevates the importance of tomorrow’s test to a completely different level.

SARU’s director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus who we will never forgive for recommending Johann van Graan to Munster is not shy of voicing his opinion and there was plenty of substance for Farrell and co to bite at when reading his comments in the buildup to this game.

Jonathan Sexton
Jonathan Sexton

Erasmus, who turns 50 tomorrow couldn’t help himself with heaping acclaim on Ireland and putting them on a pedestal because of their exploits over the last twelve months, but don’t be fooled by the Hollywood smile. 

Erasmus is your typical hard-nosed and all too often arrogant South African, who would have no issue in pulling the lever at the gallows if it meant his team could win as a result.

Personally, I like his methodology albeit, he is not everyone’s cup tea and if Farrell isn’t shrewd and thoughtful in his pre and post-game comment’s, the South African will hold the psychological advantage ahead of next year's World Cup, irrespective of the final score tomorrow.

I think it is fair to suggest that the side that takes to the field tomorrow for the visitors is the strongest they have available and apart from one or two experimental selections, this is the Boks full metal jacket.

The decision to play Toulon star Cheslin Kolbe at full back for his first start since playing against Wales in July is interesting.

Kolbe’ who has the speed and dexterity to sidestep you in a teacup can turn the most dangerous of defensive situations into seven points at the other end of the field in a blink of an eye and, if Ireland don’t give him the respect he deserves, he will find holes where gas would find it hard to penetrate.

Up front Eben Etzebeth will assume the enforcer's role and it is great to see that World Cup captain Siya Kolisi is wearing the arm band once again.

South Africa only know one way of how to play the game and if Johnny Sexton and his players think for one minute that playing sexy and fast rugby is going to see them over the line, they will end up looking like English politicians whose idea of running a country is waving their hands in the air and looking to blame others for their downfall.

There will be times in this game when defending an inch of ground is going to take every bit of dog Ireland can call upon and whilst the weather might have an influence on the score, it will not determine the winners.

The winning of this game will be determined by the side who wins the breakdown battle, and I’d be shocked if there wasn’t blood spilled from the off.

This is test match rugby at its most uncompromising.

Whoever stays standing longest will win it.

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