Boks to hope Irish are 'cold'
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers (Gallo)
Cape Town – Perhaps the only comfort for a South African squad in some disarray ahead of their opening crack at the Grand Slam against Ireland on Saturday is that their opponents ought to be reasonably rusty themselves.
The fixture at Aviva Stadium, formerly Lansdowne Road, comes with Springbok players dropping like ninepins through injury in the wake of the Currie Cup final and team selection being delayed to as late as Thursday – a near-farcical situation for arguably the toughest encounter of the tour.
It is placing into sharp focus once more the decision to allow a rest week ahead of the domestic showpiece, rather than give the Boks more time to prepare for the northern hemisphere venture.
And while the Bok brains-trust scratch their heads over a centre combination, in particular, the good news for Ireland is that their own midfield maestro Brian O’Driscoll is likely to be fit to play.
The British and Irish Lions legend has had a hamstring injury, but The Irish Times on Tuesday quoted team manager Paul McNaughton as saying: “He’ll be running today (Tuesday) but won’t take part in the full team runs against opposition and we’d all hope he’ll get to full participation tomorrow.
“We expect him to be fit and strong.”
Some consolation from a Bok perspective is that Ireland, runners-up in the 2010 Six Nations to France, have been out of action for rather longer than they have.
Their last international was against Australia in Brisbane back in late June, when the Wallabies won 22-15 and had an influential performance from Quade Cooper to thank for tilting the scales.
Ireland are on an unwanted run of three defeats, in fact, because earlier their injury-depleted side had crashed 66-28 to the All Blacks and the last game of the Six Nations had been a shock 23-20 reverse to Scotland.
Meanwhile The Irish Times’s Johnny Watterson wrote that there would be some regret at the withdrawal from the tour of fiery Bok flank Schalk Burger.
“(Burger) would have received a warm welcome in Dublin since his fondling of Luke Fitzgerald’s eyes during the last Lions tour.”