Smal: Beware the Paddys

Springbok assistant coach Gert Smal expects Ireland to provide stiffer opposition than England.

Following a clean sweep by all three Irish teams in the opening round of the Heineken Cup, the South African management have taken note of what was initially deemed the lesser of the two sides to play the Springboks in November.

“I think Ireland will be tougher than England,” forward coach Smal told the Cape Times. “If not tougher, than certainly as difficult as England. They’re a very well organised unit, have settled combinations in all departments and they have experience. It’s going to be a huge challenge.”

The success over the weekend on the muddy fields of Europe was also significant, and the former Springbok was mindful of the advantage the northerners hold on their home turf.

“It’s very different playing on those wet and heavy fields. There are certain tactical things that we have to do differently. Forward play obviously is a lot more important in the Northern Hemisphere and they come into the game a lot more [than is the case in the Tri-Nations].

“Scrumming techniques are thus quite different and the player’s grip on the ground isn’t as steady compared to what they’re used to, so there are a few things we’ll be working on ahead of the first Test.”

Another reason why the Boks may place the Irish above the Poms is due to the lengthy list of injuries that have disrupted England’s pre-season preparations. Their latest casualties include backs Josh Lewsey (hamstring) and Mark Cueto (ankle), who were injured over the weekend. Reports state that these two should be fit in time for England’s Test against the All Blacks on 5 November, but there are a number of other players who may not be so fortunate.