Boks coach expects Ireland to throw kitchen sink

rugby10 July 2024 08:01
By:Gavin Rich
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Mannie Libbok © Gallo Images

The last time the Springboks lost a rugby match was on 23 September last year to Ireland in a World Cup pool match and Rassie Erasmus has fresh memories of what it felt like that fuel a keen wariness of what the same opponents might bring in Saturday’s second test in Durban.

The Boks won 27-20 in the first game at Loftus last weekend and thus broke a three match losing sequence to the Irish that Erasmus admits hurt his team. Only two of those games were under Erasmus’ watch, both of them were narrow defeats, like this past weekend in Pretoria.

One was in Dublin in late 2022 and the other in Paris in the URC. Before that, the Boks were thrashed 38-3 at the Aviva Stadium, but that was under the previous coach Allister Coetzee. Nonetheless, the Boks have a recent history of failure against Ireland, so Erasmus knows enouogh about that to feel the trading of places this week, with this time it being them out for revenge and to make a point, will make the visitors even more dangerous.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of the scoreboard on a few occasions against them and we remember how it felt to suffer a defeat against them in the World Cup pool stages,” said Erasmus at a press conference where he announced a team that features the same 23 that did duty in Pretoria.

“We have no doubt that they are feeling the same this week that we did then. They are a proud team and nation and will be disappointed that they were unable to capitalise on a few opportunities last week. So they will work hard this week on fixing their mistakes to ensure they convert chances into points this time.

“It is going to be another tough, physical match, and just like us, they will be determined to correct what went wrong for them last week. They will be motivated to draw the series, and that will provide them with strong motivation.”


Erasmus said that because Ireland were in a different stage of their international season to the Boks, they would be in position to throw the kitchen sink at the Boks.

“They are coming to the end of their season, this is their last game before they go into a break. We are just starting our international season, we play Portugal next week and then we go into the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. So while we will be desperately wanting to win too, they can give everything in their attempt to end their season on a high.”

Ireland were by all accounts feeling battered and bruised after the Loftus game, and there may well be more absentees than the ones we know about this far - hooker Dan Sheehan and scrumhalf Craig Casey, both of whom were injured during the Loftus game and have flown home and been replaced.

However, Erasmus clearly doesn’t expect Ireland to be weaker in Durban than they were in Pretoria and on the contrary is expecting them to mount a stronger challenge now that they’ve played a game in the country. And it is clear that one change to the Ireland team, being the return of Conor Murray at scrumhalf in place of the injured Casey, could help the visiting side deal with the emotion and stress of what amounts to the deciding game of the series.

“Playing Jack Crowley at 10, who doesn’t have that much experience, with a young No 9, especially in a big game away from home, was tough,” said Erasmus.

“Both Crowley and Casey are class players, but Conor has done everything (in rugby). He’s been on Lions tours, he’s won the Six Nations, he’s played at a couple of World Cups. So he will bring calmness there.

“I know him personally (after coaching him at Munster). One thing I do know about him is that he is a great team man. And while box kicks obviously don’t fly as high at sea level, he has the best box kick I have encountered as a coach.”


Erasmus responded with a figurative shrug of the shoulders when he was asked about the criticism, chiefly from former Scotland coach Matt Williams, of his decision to send all forward replacements onto the field at the same time last week. Williams argued that the arrival of the phalanx of big men onto the field all at the same time in the 49th minute made the game dangerous.

No matter of course that, as the Bok rugby law adviser, former top referee Jaco Peyper noted the day before, Ireland went with a six/two split between forwards and backs three times in the recent Six Nations season and that split, which was such a talking point at the 2019 RWC in Japan, has become quite common place in both international teams and a level lower down in the last five years.

Perhaps that’s why Erasmus appeared so convinced that the Irish coaches and players would not have the issue with his tactic that Williams has.

“Flip, I’m on social media, I read things and there are some things you take to heart and try to understand,” said the Bok coach.

“I try to stay in touch with South Africa and how our people feel, how people react and try to be honest with the media without giving too much away. I keep up with the laws and the protocols. Our reality is that we could have sent them on one by one, but if all six go on at the same time, I don’t know if that’s dangerous.

“I don’t think the Irish team feels that way. And I don’t think (Irish coach) Andy Farrell feels that way. It’s just one individual who said that. I’m not sure the Irish players would agree with that. They are too proud and they handled us well. They still scored two great tries to make it a really nervous game at the end. One of their injuries happened in the first half before the Bomb Squad was on.

“Some things make sense when you see it, some things don’t,” he concluded in reference to the comments of a man he says he knows of in terms of his coaching record but has never crossed swords with from the coaching box.