Port Elizabeth - The Springboks are suggesting otherwise, but Ireland’s ace lineout forward Devin Toner says his team are anticipating that the South Africans will start of the deciding test with the style of play that they finished off with in Johannesburg.
After a traditional test match type opening half to the Emirates Airlines Park game, which saw the Boks fall behind by 16 points, Adriaan Strauss’ team steadily lifted the tempo after halftime before finishing off with an all embracing attacking onslaught that blew the Irish off the park in the last quarter.
According to Toner, the Irish are bracing themselves for a similar onslaught, but from the start of the game, when they go out to try and make history by clinching a series in South Africa at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium here in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
“We are definitely expecting them to start like they played in the last quarter in Johannesburg,” said the lock as the Irish reflected on the second test defeat and started to look ahead to what is to come.
“After putting it together and winning like they did, they will have the confidence to play that way now. For us it is crucial that we just don’t allow them to pick up the momentum early in the game that they enjoyed towards the end of the last one. We just can’t let them run at us and we must not let them get over the gainline.
“They are very difficult to stop and hard to play against when you give them a chance to pick up momentum. We need to be physical and front them in the collisions, not give them any space. We will have to draw on the confidence we gained from the first game, where we were very effective in preventing them from asserting themselves on the game. We know we can negate them because we did it in Cape Town.”
One of the big challenges facing the Irish this week, admits Toner, will be to overcome the disappointment of losing a game that the team felt they had wrapped up at halftime and again later on when they went 26-10 ahead.
“We’re not over it yet, to be honest. We are still going over the video and assessing where we went wrong and where we lost it. We are hurting over it. We also have sore bodies that we are nursing. We will try and get back into it later in the week. We know this is an important game because there is a series to be won. But it was very disappointing because we should have won it in Johannesburg.”
Toner refused to blame altitude for the defeat even though Bok coach Allister Coetzee said it was part of his plan to take the Irish out of their comfort zone after halftime.
“I haven’t played at altitude before, this was my first time, and I never really noticed a difference,” he said.
For Toner, who is getting married when he returns to Ireland next week, the game in Johannesburg was lost through allowing the Boks back into the game by making errors at key moments.
“I am not really relishing the idea of going through that last 15 minutes again. We just let them run at us, which we were determined not to do, and we slipped off too many tackles and fell off the contact. We must just not let them do that. I am not sure what it was down to, maybe a lack of concentration. But the lesson from Ellis Park is that you just mustn’t give the Boks a chance.”
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