Ireland preparations hampered by training ground injuries
Joe Schmidt faces a few new selection issues with news reported by The Independent that Keith Earls is a major injury doubt for Saturday. Jack McGrath is another player likely to be ruled out but even though Sean O’Brien is carrying a knock, he is expected to be fit to start at number 7. Andrew Conway should deputise for club mate Earls at 14, and youngster Jacob Stockdale is in line to start at 11.
As has been reported throughout the week, Bundee Aki is set to start at centre, where he will be joined by old Connacht teammate Robbie Henshaw.
Henderson expecting tough second-row battle with Etzebeth
Ireland lock forward Iain Henderson, is no stranger to the prowess of Eben Etzebeth, after the pair have shared a fierce rivalry since their U-20 days. Etzebeth has been passed fit to start at The Aviva Stadium and Henderson is aware of how important that could be for The Springboks. He doesn’t expect their second-row duel to be easy, saying “you could tell when he was younger that he was a natural leader and a leader who captains through what he does rather than speeches or trying to emotionally rile guys up. That’s from an outsiders’ point of view, I’m not sure what he’s like to play (with) but you can tell he’s a massive presence to play alongside. I played against him a good few times before, he’s a massive presence on the pitch and a huge leader in their team, captaining them now. He’s been very good for them, not only in the tournament just passed, but in the last number of years.”
Springboks must prepare for ‘complete package’ Stockdale
Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale, was a member of the triumphant Ireland U20 side in last year’s World Cup win over New Zealand. Since then, he has developed into a fine player at club and international level.
Teammate Keith Earls says “He’s been playing unbelievably for Ulster this year – he’s massive, he’s fast, he’s an incredible finisher and he’s so strong, he ticks all the boxes. He’ll make mistakes as he gets older and it will start getting difficult when teams start figuring him out and what he’s about, but in my eyes, right now, he ticks every box.”
Stockdale is expected to start at left wing on Saturday, but the player has designs on one day playing in the number 13 jersey. The 21-year-old scored on his Ireland debut, but his biggest test yet awaits on Saturday against the Springboks and it’s a chance to make a big international statement.
Springbok season hinges on “hellish challenges in Europe” according to coach Coetzee
Captain Eben Etzebeth has been passed fit to take his place in the side on Saturday which will come as a boost for the entire Bok camp. Allister Coetzee has made no secret of how seriously his side is taking the challenge of playing up north, saying that “Playing in Europe means different weather, different styles of play and different interpretations of the breakdown laws by referees. “Our opponents are likely to be very good at tactical kicking and challenging for the ball in the air. “We need to start winning close matches, too, having failed to do so three times this year against New Zealand and Australia.”
Kickoff at The Aviva Stadium in Dublin between Ireland and South Africa is at 19:00. More team news will be broken here tomorrow.