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Strauss to make Ireland debut against South Africa

DUBLIN (AFP) –

Leinster's South Africa-born Richardt Strauss (L) is tackled during the European Cup final in May

Leinster’s South Africa-born hooker Richardt Strauss (L) is tackled by Ulster wing Craig Gilroy (C) during the European Cup final at Twickenham in London on May 19, 2012. Strauss is set to make his Ireland debut against the Springboks in Dublin on Saturday after being given a place in coach Declan Kidney’s injury-hit starting XV.

South Africa-born Richardt Strauss is set to make his Ireland debut against the Springboks in Dublin on Saturday after being given a place in coach Declan Kidney’s injury-hit starting XV.

It means the same family will be providing both hookers for this weekend’s match at Lansdowne Road, with the 26-year-old Strauss’s cousin, Adriaan Strauss, starting in the Springboks’ No 2 shirt.

The cousins grew up together and both attended Grey College in Bloemfontein where Richardt played as a flanker and Adriaan at hooker.

Leinster No 8 Jamie Heaslip will captain Ireland for the first time in the injury-enforced absence of centre Brian O’Driscoll, lock Paul O’Connell and Rory Best, all of whom have previously skippered the side.

Richardt Strauss, who plays his club rugby for European champions Leinster, qualified for Ireland after completing a three-year residency period.

He arrived in Ireland as a 23-year-old, having been a member of the South Africa team that won the Under-19 World Cup in 2005.

An injury to Rory Best has now given Pretoria-born former Cheetahs forward Strauss, never capped at full Test level by the Springboks, his chance to make an international debut for his adopted country.

Strauss’s selection is sure to re-open the controversial issue of Test eligibility but Kidney said he’d no qualms about picking a player qualified under International Rugby Board (IRB) regulations.

“It’s always hard leaving home but he’s come over and has thrown himself fully into Leinster,” Kidney said. “Nobody would have made it easy for him to come through but he’s fought through everything and had a brilliant year.

“He’s here on merit and we’re very lucky to have him.”

Meanwhile Heaslip said he felt “pretty humbled” to be made captain.

“I’m proud to lead this group,” he said. “Once we get onto the pitch everyone will be on automatic pilot because we have such great leaders within the team.”

Full-back Rob Kearney and back-row Stephen Ferris are among the other players on Ireland’s lengthy injury list.

Kidney’s team shows eight changes in all from the side thrashed 60-0 last time out by world champions New Zealand in Hamilton in June.

Prop Cian Healy packs down alongside Strauss in a front-row also featuring Mike Ross while Connact’s Mike McCarthy comes in for Dan Tuohy at lock.

A re-shaped back-row sees Heaslip leading the side from No 8 with Peter O’Mahony, who started against the All Blacks in the position, moving across to blindside flanker. Chris Henry completes the loose forward trio.

Half-backs Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton retain their places but in the centres Kidney has opted for a new combination in Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls.

Meanwhile Simon Zebo is line for his first start at full-back with Tommy Bowe, winning his 50th cap, and Andrew Trimble the two wings,

Kidney refused to be downcast by Ireland’s injury problems.

“When you lose players of their experience it’s always going to be a hurdle to overcome. But that’s why we’ve been building a squad over the last couple of years anyway because we always knew this day would come.”

The Springboks, who announced their team on Wednesday, have won just one of their last four Tests in Dublin but did enjoy a narrow 23-21 triumph on their most recent visit to Lansdowne Road in 2010.

“South Africa are a very confrontational side and they don’t make any bones about that,” said Heaslip.

“They got one over us last time. We don’t like losing in our back garden. It will be a full house on Saturday and the place will be rocking.

“We want to give the Irish people something to cheer about.”

Ireland (15-1)

Simon Zebo; Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip (capt), Chris Henry, Peter O’Mahony; Mike McCarthy, Donnacha Ryan; Mike Ross, Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy

Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Michael Bent, Donncha O’Callaghan, Iain Henderson, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Fergus McFadden

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