The Irish media has sounded an early battle cry ahead of the Springboks’ Test aginst Ireland at Croke Park on Saturday, claiming the Boks are burnt out and labelling coach Peter de Villiers’ men as ‘thugs’.
Rugby365.com reports that the South Africans head into Saturday’s Test having recorded just one win from their four outings on the year-end tour, which led the Irish Independent to label the current tour as an “embarrassment for the World Champions”.
Peter de Villiers won’t be the first Bok coach to walk into an Irish media ambush after his predecessor Jake White claimed that only two Irish players would make his Springbok team in 2004. The Irish though, had the final say as they went on to beat the Boks at Lansdowne Road which resulted in a failed Grand slam campaign for the South Africans.
“Ireland can and probably will win against South Africa next Saturday. The Springboks on the tour so far have looked like a team that has simply played too many matches in 2009,” the newspaper predicted.
“The world champions and Tri-Nations winners have had an embarrassing tour so far. Two midweek defeats against Leicester and Saracens on either side of a Test loss to France before yesterday’s match with Italy suggest that the players just want to get home.
“Coach Peter de Villiers finds himself with a number of injury concerns as his tour to Europe nears its end. Following a spate of injuries, the Springboks have called up Ulster prop BJ Botha to the squad to cover the tight head position. This follows the arrival of Leinster’s CJ van der Linde who was called into the squad once first-choice props Jannie du Plessis and Gurthrö Steenkamp returned home with injuries. Last Tuesday Van der Linde limped off with a sore hamstring against Saracens.
“The loss of the first-choice props will allow Ireland to survive although they will be hoping that the so-called ‘Beast’, Tendai Mtawarira, will line out at loose head as the Zimbabwean is no scrummager despite the torrid time he gave to Phil Vickery in the summer.”
The Irish Independent also labelled the Boks as ‘bullies’ and the Croke Park Test will have some added spice following Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll and No 8 Jamie Heaslip’s comments during the Lions tour.
O’Driscoll attacked De Villiers for his refusal to acknowledge Schalk Burger’s guilt in the Fitzgerald eye-gouging incident, while Heaslip bemoaned the Boks’ physicality after their defeat in the second Test at Loftus.
“Bully boy tactics are very much part of the Springbok game plan. The gouging of Luke Fitzgerald on the Lions tour was just a symptom of a style that relies on subjugating opponents. Bryan Habana may be an icon for his people but as we have seen not just in recent weeks but throughout his career, the speedster, like his team-mates, is not afraid to dish it out.
“South Africa had a great tradition for physicality borne of the great Afrikaner farming tradition. The struggles against New Zealand for the unofficial world championship in the heady days of amateur rugby were characterised by ferocious physical intensity. Sadly, under Peter de Villiers that has become a much more cynical rather than manly characteristic. To win, Ireland will need to display fortitude way above even that shown last week.”
The Irish Sunday Times also quoted Ireland legend Fergus Slattery saying, “Because of his diet and his climate the average South African player has always been bigger than the average northern European, so the always use their physicality to try and beat the s#*t out of you.”Tweet