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07th Nov 2014

3 real reasons Ireland should be very afraid of South Africa ahead of their clash on Saturday

There are some big boys coming to town this weekend...

Alan Loughnane

There are some big boys coming to town this weekend…

Ireland take on South Africa in the opening game of the Guinness International series at 5.30pm in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Usually the saying goes, save the best for last but that is false this weekend as Ireland take on the form team in the world, the team who ended the seemingly invincible New Zealand’s winning streak.

Much has been made about the new style of game that South Africa play and while it’s true they play a different game to previous years, and they are more willing to play the ball out of defence. They will certainly not completely abandon the game that made them World Champions in 2007.

South Africa are 1/3 favourites going into Saturday’s game and few can argue with the tight odds placed upon the southern hemisphere side. They come into the game in good form having finished strongly against New Zealand in the Rugby Championship and will be fresh after coach Heyneke Meyer withdrew all the team from Currie Cup duty in South Africa.

Ireland on the other hand have suffered with a couple of crucial injuries in key positions which leaves them up against it for their clash on Saturday. Here is why we are fearful of the South Africa threat on Saturday.

The set piece…

South Africa pride themselves on having a dominant scrum and a rock solid lineout. While they may have been blitzed in the scrum on a few occasions against Argentina in the Rugby Championship, they worked on that throughout the tournament and they were shunting New Zealand and Australia off the ball in the closing weekends (we know the Australian scrum isn’t exactly a powerhouse but they’re still a top ranked team).

Mike Ross hasn’t played a lot of rugby of late and when his legs eventually go (around the 55th minute we reckon), a lot of responsibility will be on Rodney Ah You who is a bit hit and miss with his scrummaging. Things could go sour very quickly.

Incoming Tour: Springboks official team photograph and captains media conference

Their lineout is probably the best in the world with Victor Matfield a pillar of strength in the second row. He calls the ball onto himself often but they have Duane Vermuelen to go for at the back as well as the other massive second row Eben Etzebeth.

In Bismark du Plessis and Adrian Strauss they have two of the best hookers in the world. As if that wasn’t enough, they only have Bakkies Botha on the bench to bring on. That is a scary thought.

Dangerous backline…

The Springboks long heralded as a team that wins using only ten players, but those times are long gone and now their backline is just as effective as their front eight. We really like the look of Francois Hougaard at number nine, while he isn’t the same tactician as the injured Ruan Pienaar, he brings a whole different skill set to the table.

Hougaard is a livewire of a scrum-half and will be busy around the pitch before he runs out of steam. He will be quick to rucks and we are impressed by how he doesn’t shut off after he releases the ball. He stays alive for return passes and is great at tracking runs, similar to Chris Ashton. Evidence is the try he scores below…

Video via AustGirlManto.

At full-back and key to the new attacking philosophy of the Springboks is Willie le Roux, who is one of the best players in the world at the minute and is rightly in the top two full-backs in the world alongside Israel Folau.

We saw how good this man is during the autumn internationals last year when he demolished Scotland and that kind of form continued over into this year’s Rugby Championship. He is a player with real star quality. It’s hard to believe that he was heavily linked with Leinster not so long ago and a crying shame that he didn’t sign for them.

Ball carriers…

The big worry for Ireland going into Saturday’s game is where our front football is going to come from. The losses of Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are going to be keenly felt on Saturday when we need a player to truck the ball up and make a few hard yards.

Jamie Heaslip has been taking on more responsibility carrying ball well for Leinster in their two Champions Cup outings to date, but he hasn’t been known as a ball carrier for Ireland since 2009. He was much more of battering ram then but he has changed how he has played the game over the last number of seasons.

He will be facing Duane Vermuelen, who is a colossus of a man and is up there with Kieran Read as the best number eight in the world. Vermuelen will carry ball all day and will need to be chop tackled early to avoid him making big dents in the defensive line. Here is an example of the stength of the man…

Sean Cronin will be needed to pick intelligent lines like he has been doing for Leinster all season and Jack McGrath and Paul O’Connell will need to take up some of the slack left behind in the absence of Healy and O’Brien.

South Africa also have the du Plessis brothers, although Bismark will do far more carrying than Jannie. The rest of their pack are big physical men and on average are probably bigger than the Irish. They have two big centres but it must be said the Irish pair of Henshaw and Payne are not exactly small either. All in all though, South Africa seem the more likely to make the easier yards and this will have a big impact on the result.