Ireland’s coaching staff are confident that the home side’s composure will win out over South Africa’s umbrella defence at Lansdowne Road.
Graham Steadman, the Ireland defence coach and former Great Britain rugby league player believes that while the Springbok tactics have the potential to be devastating, they do allow a large margin for error.
“With the type of blitz system South Africa operate, the key for us will be to remain patient with the ball in hand and expose any gaps we can identify. There will be a lot of spillages throughout the game and it’s about how each side reacts.”
The weather predicted for Saturday afternoon’s game will be chilly, with a chance of light showers. Maintaining posession will be crucial, and so coughing up ball on the attack will be unforgivable, be it in a raging hurricane or a bout of tropical sunshine.
Steadman was wary of the three debutants in the visiting line-up, who should bring a degree of unpredictability into what is sometimes touted as a far too predictable Springbok attacking structure.
“We’ve worked out a few attacking systems to sort out their defence. In terms of their attack, it’s obviously an unknown quantity in some respects with three new caps in the back-three,” he said. “But we’ve done a lot of homework and the key will be preventing them dictating the game.”
If the weather does inhibit the ball from being moved around with any real fluidity, much of the focus will fall on the two kickers to nail their penalties. Andre Pretorius comes into this match on the back of two big Test wins where he played a significant role in this respect, the most notable being the three-pointer that pipped the All Blacks at Rustenburg with minimal time left on the stadium clock.
His opposite number Ronan O’Gara has also enjoyed some recent success with Heineken Cup holders Munster, and Ireland’s kicking coach Mark Tainton feels the flyhalf has proved he has the mental aptitude to succeed in pressure situations.
“With Ronan, if he misses the first kick, you just get the message on to relax and remind him of the process. You’ve got to be relaxed and focused at the same time during training in the week of a match, because you don’t want them getting anxious.”