Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll believes the team that plays the Springboks on Saturday is the best he has played in.
Springbok coach Jake White has picked an experimental team to play Ireland in Dublin, with John Smit the only survivor from the 2004 Bok 17-12 defeat in Dublin. That was the last time the two teams met.
O’Driscoll’s comments, as told to the Irish Independent’s David Kelly, only seems to make the Bok task that bit harder.
“I can’t remember an Irish team being in better shape before a game,” he said. “We’re where we want to be at this moment in time. There’s always been a core of players who have believed we have what it takes to beat the big teams on a consistent basis. Now I believe there are more players who think like that.”
Ireland have enjoyed good home form in recent years with the All Blacks the exception to teams who have struggled in Dublin. The All Blacks last year smashed Ireland 45-7, having led 45-0 for 79 minutes. The Irish were far better when touring New Zealand, losing the two tests by 11 and 10 points respectively.
They looked like upsetting Australia in Perth when they lead early in the second half, but Australia came back to win easily.
O’Driscoll has played the Boks four times since 2000 and has only been a winner once. He has enjoyed success against Australia with Ireland and the Lions, as well as against England. He knows the feeling of beating France the last three times they have met in Dublin, but he has never tasted victory against the All Blacks.
The side picked to play the Boks shows just the one change from the side beaten by Australian in Perth.
Coach Eddie O’Sullivan stressed that the team had improved since that defeat and that the starting line-up was picked on form in the European Cup and Celtic League.