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Thursday 29 September 2016

Ireland seek another gear

Farrell demands a benchmark impact in defence to win series

Andy Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile
Andy Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile

The naysayers would have you believe this will be another footnote in history filed away as 'the same old story'.

A calf problem meant Jared Payne was the latest faller for the final hurdle, following on from Robbie Henshaw's knee injury.

This removes the centre of Ireland's backline through the counter-intelligence of Payne and the physicality of Henshaw.

The Springboks have stumbled upon a better team through the forces of luck and time together from the impact of wing Ruan 'The Punisher' Combrinck, for the hopelessly out of sorts Lwazi Mvovo, who is dropped, and number eight Warren Whiteley, for the out-of-form Duane Vermeulen, who is injured.

The odds are stacked a thousand bales high against Ireland.

However, the simple fact Allister Coetzee has kept faith with Frans Malherbe reflects the paucity of tight-heads in South Africa.

Malherbe has been their weak point at the scrum and out in the open where he has given away multiple penalties for his lazy work at the breakdown.

Should Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira come unstuck against Mike Ross, Ireland will be in the driving seat at scrum time.

Now, this is not likely on the evidence of the first Test where the Irishman was the one under pressure.

Thirty-six-year-old Ross lamented the leaving of Eoin Reddan, after this Test.

The fine work of Tadhg Furlong in the second Test and the sure-footed development of Finlay Bealham places a burden of proof back on the shoulders of Ross.

Outside the Irish set-piece and Paddy Jackson's goal-kicking, Ireland defended heroically for all of 140 minutes before a single-quarter collapse handed South Africa what could be series-winning momentum.

Ireland assistant coach Andy Farrell has just started into a four-year contract and relishes the challenge.

"I don't think we've set the bar anywhere," he said.

"I think it was an heroic performance in the first Test, down to 13 and 14 men. It was an unbelievable performance of true grit.

"We're looking for a benchmark performance to take forward.

"I think there's more in us, a more complete game, and we'll need to show that."

The former England defence coach is barely a wet week into his new role.

Eddie Jones has taken England to dominate in Australia.

This is an opportunity for Ireland to show the 'auld enemy' they are not the only ones good enough to do it in the southern hemisphere.

South Africa: W le Roux; R Combrinck, L Mapoe, D de Allende, JP Pietersen; E Jantjes, F de Klerk; T Mtawarira, A Strauss (capt), F Malherbe; E Etzebeth, PS du Toit; F Louw, S Kolisi, W Whiteley.
Ireland: T O'Halloran; A Trimble, L Marshall, S Olding, K Earls; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), M Ross; I Henderson, D Toner; CJ Stander, J Murphy, J Heaslip.
South Africa v Ireland (today, 4.0, live sky sports 1)

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