Former Springbok loose forward Bob Skinstad believes South Africa will exceed expectations on their year-end tour of the UK.
Skinstad, who played against and beat Ireland five times in his career, rejected the notion that an understrength Bok side will be an easy target for the Irish. He also added that not too much should be read into the South African’s indifferent form in 2006.
“Sure, the Springboks did have a tough time over the summer, but the Tri-Nations is a very tough tournament,” he told the Irish Independent.
“It’s tough to beat New Zealand and Australia away. But I believe they are on an upward curve at the moment. Remember, they did beat the All Blacks and Australia at home and, subsequently, they’ve had a wonderful domestic competition. The Currie Cup went wonderfully well.”
The 30-year-old was adamant that they had enough depth in the squad to make their year-end UK sojourn a success and praised the trio of Bok debutants.
“Jaco Pretorius is a great young talent, he’s a seven-a-side player who has had a great Currie Cup,” he said. “Francois Steyn and Bevin Fortuin are two more who have played well for the Natal Sharks and the Cheetahs respectively. These are all players who are coming through and staking claims for next year’s World Cup.”
The 34-cap player sought to deflect some of the criticism off embattled Bok coach Jake White and added that he thought the structures White had put in place would bear fruit by the World Cup in France next year.
“I think that the South Africa national coaching job is the poison chalice. Everyone wants it, but it is all going to end in tears,” he explained. “It’s happened that way over the past 100 years.
“To my mind, Jake has staved off the critics well, the Tri-Nations win last year, and good victories when he has needed them. Hopefully, it will translate into consistency of selection for the World Cup.
“Of course, he’s the right man. For one thing, he’s got all the players’ trust. For another, he’s the guy who understands these players the best. So to make another change at this stage would be silly.
“He’s got a good group of senior players who can help him with the leadership and he can shore it up with some of the younger players coming through. I think he has a good crack at it.”
While Skinstad believes the Boks will triumph at Lansdowne Road he was quick to acknowledge that Ireland have shown an exponential improvement in their standard of play since he last played them.
“Definitely. I think they are one of the most resurgent and most attractive teams in the game.
“Ireland are now a marker, a benchmark, in world rugby. They could possibly get two or three into the All Blacks side at the moment, which is a great way of measuring yourself. The biggest strength is the cohesiveness of the pack and the experience and understanding of the backs.”