Schmidt earns high praise

2014-11-09 15:45
Joe Schmidt (AFP)

Dublin - Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt woke up to headlines singing his praises after he masterminded a superb 29-15 victory over the Springboks on Saturday.

The 49-year-old New Zealander - who in his maiden Six Nations campaign guided the Irish to the title earlier this year - has proved a master at preparing the team for different challenges, wrote former Ireland lock turned journalist Neil Francis in the Sunday Independent.

"He may have the air of a headmaster but with the conscience of a rattlesnake his team was a personification of their head coach's mindset," wrote the 50-year-old Francis, who was capped 36 times.

"Schmidt's preparation of his team is such that now it is well on the way to being an appreciable difference and Heyneke Meyer, the Springbok coach, has been dwarfed intellectually by the mild-mannered and softly-spoken Kiwi."

Francis said the Springboks had played like a team that thought the game was already won as they were coming off beating world champions New Zealand three weeks ago and ending their 22-match winning run.

However, he added they and the public in general had underestimated Schmidt's brilliant strategy which condemned their opponents to their first defeat to a northern hemisphere team in four years.

"The roosters came to town with the sound of their own propaganda ringing in their ears and were lulled into a false sense of security and that is how they played," wrote Francis.

"Once again we have misjudged Joe Schmidt's savant-like quality. He was pinioned on the selection front (he had 18 capped players unavailable for selection because of injury and illness) but his overall game plan reeked of intelligence and preparedness."

That is not to say the Springboks emerged unscathed from criticism.

"When the Springboks gaze into the bedpan of defeat they can point to a number of factors which hindered their cause," wrote Francis.

"Prime among these was the performance of their scrum-half Francois Hougaard, who certainly had the worst performance of his career at test level."

Former Ireland prop Peter Clohessy writing in 'The Irish Mail on Sunday' said this was no lucky win despite having been under relentless South African pressure in the first-half which they resisted.

"Let's be clear about this: Ireland won because they out-played South Africa and made the second-best team in the world make mistake after mistake," wrote the 48-year-old, who won 54 caps.

Clohessy praised the leadership shown by captain Paul O'Connell and No8 Jamie Heaslip as well as man of the match Jonathan Sexton, who contributed 16 points with metronomical kicking.

He said the rookie centre partnership of debutant Jared Payne and 21-year-old Robbie Henshaw settled quicker with the calm authority of Sexton alongside them as they began the daunting task of replacing the iconic duet of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy.

It was the first time neither the now retired O'Driscoll nor D'Arcy (who sat out the match) had appeared in a starting line-up since 1999.

"They (Payne and Henshaw) defended consistently, got themselves in the right positions and showed no weaknesses that South Africa could exploit. That was vital," wrote Clohessy.

However, Clohessy, never one during his playing days to shirk a challenge and who often got the wrong side of referees, said the victory raised expectations.

"People will now expect nothing less than three out of three (test wins) this month," said Clohessy referring to the games against Georgia and Australia.

"Winners are judged by the highest standards."

Read more on:    springboks  |  joe schmidt  |  rugby

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