Thursday 18 January 2018

Schmidt looks to outfox Boks

Jackson to emerge out of shadows

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and CJ Stander during squad training in Westerford High School, Cape Town, South Africa. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and CJ Stander during squad training in Westerford High School, Cape Town, South Africa. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland's first chance is their best chance of tearing up the history books.

South Africa is not quite the unbreachable castle it would appear from the bare evidence that the Irish have never won there.

Stripping it back, they have had seven shots at it, coming as close as two points (12-10) at King's Park, Durban back in 1981.

The Springboks have a new coach in Allister Coetzee, minimum time together to prepare, three new caps in their 23-man squad and a number of individuals who have not proven themselves in the international cauldron.

Unsurprisingly, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt played down the prospect of profit by graciously talking-up South Africa.

"I know the quality of the player that they have," he said.

"I think they've got some super players. I think it's really well-known that they have a number of world-class players.

"Some of them are based here and some of them they've got back from overseas which we thought might not happen.

"They'll be there and be fully present on Saturday."

Schmidt pointed to Coetzee's intimate knowledge of his players as a reason to dilute Ireland's advantage of familiarity over his three-season reign.

"He knows a number of the players very well," said Schmidt.

"He's coached a number of them for a long time. He's coached in South Africa for a long time.


"He coached as assistant coach the last time in 2004. That's how long he's been involved at this level.

"It's a different group, but that group has now transitioned through a lot of players that he's actually coached, so I think they'll come together pretty quickly."

So much of what Ireland bring to the stadium near Table Mountain will hang on the frame of Paddy Jackson.

"I think he's got big boots to fill, but I think his feet will slot in quite nicely," said Schmidt.

The hour is almost upon us when the 24 year-old Ulsterman can finally walk out from under the long shadow cast by Jonathan Sexton.

While Jackson was pushed too soon at Ulster, he has been held back - some would suggest too much - by Schmidt for Ireland, not playing even one minute of the Six Nations.

"I've been around long enough to know how things work and I've had a chance to step back and see how Joe and Johnny orchestrate things," said Jackson.

"I've been waiting for a chance and now I've got it. I'm really looking forward to it. It's exciting times for me.

"Since I was a kid, I've always wanted to put on that green jersey. This is another chance for me and I'm just really looking forward to it."

It is just as well the out-half comes to this in fine form.

"It's all well having a decent season with the province. I will take confidence from that,

"But, also, there's going to be nerves and excitement."

Jackson was not about to give up any trade secrets when discussing how this Ireland can do what the other six couldn't in South Africa.

"I don't think that will change the way we approach the game," he stated.

"We need to be physical. We need to be smart.

"And that's how we're going to approach the game as a team."

South Africa: W le Roux; JP Pietersen, L Mapoe, D de Allende, L Mvovo; P Lambie, F de Klerk; T Mtawarira, A Strauss (capt), F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, L de Jager, F Louw, S Kolisi, D Vermeulen.

Ireland: J Payne; A Trimble, R Henshaw, L Marshall, 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, tomorrow (ko 4.00pm), live SKY SPORTS 1

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