Ireland won’t only focus on Springbok forward power

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Ireland Press Conference - Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France - September 22, 2023 Ireland's Josh van der Flier during the press conference REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) – World number one Ireland are wary of not only the physical threat posed by defending champions South Africa in their Rugby World Cup Pool B clash in Paris on Saturday, but also the battle at the breakdown and the backline danger the Springboks possess.

The eagerly-anticipated fixture is likely to decide the winner of the group, with various key battles all over the pitch making for a fascinating contest.

Much has been made of the Boks’ decision to select seven replacement forwards on their bench, but Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier says there is more to their game than brute force.

“They are definitely a very physical team and that is something we have got very used to. It is part of their DNA,” Van der Flier told reporters on Friday.

“We know we have to be at our best in that area. They are very smart, they come up with some good plays as well, so it is not just the physical confrontation they bring.

“We will certainly be trying to stop them getting turnovers and competing on our ball. Everyone has a role to play in that. It’s a huge threat and something that has worked really well for South Africa.”

Winger Mack Hansen says this is a fixture they have been eyeing since the World Cup draw was made three years ago.

“We are super excited for it. It’s a big step up from the previous games we have had but it’s everything we’ve been working for this whole time,” Hansen said, adding the battle out wide with Bok wingers Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse will be another big showdown.

“They are arguably two of the best wingers in the world, and Kolbe arguably one of the best wingers of all time,” Hansen said. “I was lucky enough to have game against Kolbe in the autumn, and I played against Kurt (for Connacht) when he was with the Bulls.

“You can’t really get used to playing against these lads at all, but I have played them a couple of times now, which is nice. I have my thing that I’ll do to try to get ready for it and get my mindset ready.

“There are a few nerves here and there but that is what it is all about.”

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)

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