South African tour daunting prospect for Ireland

Irish South African tour daunting prospect
Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell, right, and head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

At the end of a demanding season a depleted Ireland face one of the toughest assignments in rugby

by Phil Rice

This week Ireland face the unenviable task of playing South Africa in their own backyard, with an injury-hit squad. Not only will they play them this weekend but each weekend for the next three weeks. The already weakened squad were further hit by key withdrawals last week when Johnny Sexton, the Kearney brothers and Luke Fitzgerald all pulled out through injury.

As they discovered against Argentina in the World Cup last October, Ireland have capable deputies but the loss of key leaders on the park against top flight opposition is another matter.

It will give players such as Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, and Matt Healy the opportunity they have been crying out for, but against such formidable opposition, strong leadership and experience is required and it is sadly lacking in the touring squad.

Irish South African tour daunting prospect
Paddy Jackson among newer faces in SA. Photo Ben Evans / SPORTSFILE

It will be a steep learning curve and there will be painful lessons learned but possibly at the expense of some damaging results. One can recall the 60-0 drubbing that Ireland received at the hands of New Zealand three years ago, which resulted in the demise of Declan Kidney as Irish Coach.

That result followed a brave performance the previous week and a narrow victory for the All Blacks, but three consecutive weeks against such quality opposition is daunting indeed.

Favourable impression

This will be the first Ireland matches involving new defence coach Andy Farrell and what an introduction he faces. He appears to have made a favourable impression with the players since his introduction, but with the possible exception of the All Blacks, there is no more demanding tour than to South Africa.

Ireland’s defence will come under the harshest scrutiny, it will be a true baptism of fire for Farrell. If there is a crumb of comfort for Ireland it is that South Africa will have a new coaching set up themselves.

Alister Coetzee will be taking charge for the first time. The South African rugby public will demand instant success, so he will be under pressure for his team to perform.

Joe Schmidt said “I thought Heyneke Mayer had them mixing their game up a fair bit, so I don’t expect anything massively different.”

Irish South African tour daunting prospect
South Africa’s Jan Serfontein. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Ex Munster player and South African captain Jean de Villers has retired from international rugby but the new midfield of Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel or possibly Damian de Allende will be very capable and dangerous. Ireland’s best chance of pulling off a first ever victory in South Africa will be in the first test.

Progress Historically the opposition’s victory margins widen as these tours progress in South Africa and New Zealand. Ireland can catch them cold when they are bedding in a new coaching team but we will have to play at our very best.

Ireland have been slipping down the international ranking list during the past season and it is imperative that we have a successful period leading up to the seeding for the next World Cup at the end of the 2016-17 season.

The lads received a very warm welcome in South Africa!


Devin Toner takes a dip.

And here they are today, training in Cape Town.



(2016 Summer Tour of South Africa)

Backs (14)

Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster)
Matt Healy (Connacht) *
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)
Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)
Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Tiernan O’Halloran (Buccaneers/Connacht) *
Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Jared Payne (Ulster)
Eoin Reddan (Old Crescent/Leinster)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)

Forwards (18)

Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt)
Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (vice-capt)
Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Sean Reidy (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *
Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
Quinn Roux (Galwegians/Connacht) *
Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
CJ Stander (Munster)
Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster)
Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
* Denotes uncapped player at Test level

Ireland Summer Tour Fixtures

South Africa v IRELAND

Saturday, June 11
DHL Newlands Stadium, 5pm local time/4pm Irish time

Check out feedback and pics from this match here:

South Africa v IRELAND

Saturday, June 18
Emirates Airline Park, 5pm local time/4pm Irish time

South Africa v IRELAND

Saturday 25th June, 2016
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, 5pm local time/4pm Irish time

Madigan admits he might have stayed


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