More Irish innovation needed in testing Boks tussle
By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Ireland's canny planning and out-of-the-box tactics paid dividends in Dublin two years ago when they beat South Africa but their coach Joe Schmidt played down the prospect of more surprises when the two countries meet at Newlands on Saturday.
Clever kicking, strong defence and some innovative ideas, like stepping off the mauls, unsettled the more fancied Springboks and helped Ireland to a deserved 29-15 victory in the last clash between the two test nations.
"Time has moved on a long way since then and the personnel are very different, both for us and for South Africa. I don't think it is the same as it was two years ago," said Schmidt ahead of the first of a three-test series.
But an under-resourced Ireland, stripped of several key players because of injury, will need something up their sleeves for the first encounter in a tough three-test series.
"Inevitably you've got to box a little cleverly against the Springboks. It was interesting to see what the All Blacks did in the semifinal of (last year's) World Cup, they turned them around a lot.
"It didn't necessarily work that well as it was only 20-18 at the end of the game and it was so close it could have gone either way," said Schmidt.
"The players themselves express how they think that they can best perform and we definitely build our plan together. Hopefully then they own it and they deliver it.
"This weekend we have got to put our most competitive foot forward and, at the same time, hope the players involved will get some experiences that will build them into being longer-term members and go through to 2019," Schmidt added.
The next Rugby World Cup is also South Africa's end objective as they start a new four-year cycle and play the first game under new coach Allister Coetzee.
He is the second black coach to take charge of the team at a time when political pressure to select a team more representative of the country's racial mix is increasing.
Yet he refused to entertain any suggestion this influenced his first selection. "We will select the best team for the country and whoever is not happy with that, I can't help it. I'm happy with the choices," Coetzee said on Thursday.
The second test is in Johannesburg on June 18 and the last in Port Elizabeth on June 25.
(Editing by Ian Chadband)