Ireland v South Africa: Teamtalk

Deccie named his team for the South Africa game yesterday, and given we are missing 6 of our best players, all possible Lions (Best, O’Connell, Ferris, O’Brien, O’Driscoll, Kearney), it was pretty much the best we could do under the circumstances. Credit is due to Deccie here – we have given him stick in the past for excessive loyalty to particular players, but this XV is largely in-form and its exciting and refreshing, and is absent of the slightly stodgy feel of recent Ireland teams. Let’s hope its a (much belated) new leaf and not another example of injury being our best selector.

At full-back, its Simon Zebo who gets the nod – we’re pretty much ok with it – there aren’t too many better options, and it allows an experienced and in-form three-quarter line of Bowe-Earls-D’Arcy-Skrela to be picked. If Earls (say) had gone to 15, that would probably have resulted in that line looking like Bowe-Cave-D’Arcy-Zebo, which, while being equally hot, is much less experienced. The backline looks like it might have tries in it too, which, if it does not win us the game, should at least help to sell a few more tickets for the Pumas game. The halves pick themselves at this stage – we have to accept Eoin Reddan is just not going to be first choice, but Murray is in good form and his breaking threat could be a crucial factor.

In the backrow, Chris Henry finally gets recognition for his 18 months of excellence at openside flanker, Jamie Heaslip captains the side from 8, and Peter O’Mahony steps into the immense shoes of Fez on the blindside. For all Ireland’s army of blindsides, the only realistic alternative to this selection was throwing baby-faced NWJMB in – the bench will do for him, and those present in the Palindrome should note the “I was here when…” moment of his debut.

We touted Mike McCarthy as the horse for the Springbok course a few weeks ago, and Deccie’s refreshing break with Connacht-ignoring tradition should be widely applauded – McCarthy has been in great form for the Westerners and fully deserves his call-up – he has the type of meat we traditionally lack in that division and which is an essential of beating the Boks. He’ll be partnered by the worryingly out-of-form, but international revelation of last year, Donnacha Ryan – its a mean-looking second row, and it will need to be – Etzebeth and Kruger are simply monstrous.

Risteard O hOstrais will face off against his cousin Adriaan after kissing the blarney stone, drinking a pint of Guinness, repressing his emotions and completing the 3 year residency qualification – some have proclaimed it the end of days, but is he really any less deserving than the likes of Dion O Cuinneagean, who got shoehorned in on the Granny rule? Thankfully, both first choice props are fit, or even John Knox would be getting out the rosary beads.

The bench is pretty uninspiring, which isn’t that shocking given the injury list. Only Eoin Reddan looks capable of making an impact, and its sad Deccie hasn’t thrown caution completely to the wind – Dan Tuohy or Ryan Caldwell would assuredly offer more from the bench than O’Callaghan, and surely the ship has sailed on Ronan O’Gara’s international usefulness – blooding Paddy Jackson might have been the better option. [Note: Meyer’s preference for Morne ahead of Elton Jantjes has a similar feel]

And what of the Springboks? No surprise, its a beastly-looking pack that will be put in the right places by Ruan Pienaar, whose dual with Johnny Sexton for most influential player in Europe moves to the international stage. Looking at the beef quotient, there are significant Springbok advantages in the second row and the flanks – Alberts and Etzebeth are particularly huge. If the Bok bosh merchants get their bosh and boot game going, and the forwards start making holes, its difficult to see Ireland’s superior looking outside backs being the position to take advantage.

Like Ireland, South Africa are injury hit, low on confidence and in experimentation mode. The Boks aren’t quite there for the taking, but with a full-strength Irish side, you might be quietly confident. As it is, we have our best side possible on the pitch, but we feel the unrelenting physicality needed for this assignment might just be beyond a pack with a pretty green tinge to it. We’ll travel in hope on Saturday, but expect a Boks victory by between 7 and 10.

Ireland: S Zebo; T Bowe, K Earls, G D’Arcy, A Trimble; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; D Ryan, M McCarthy; P O’Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: D Kilcoyne, M Bent, S Cronin, D O’Callaghan, I Henderson, E Reddan, R O’Gara, F McFadden.

South Africa: Z Kirchner, JP Pietersen, J Taute, J de Villiers (capt), F Hougaard, P Lambie, R Pienaar; T Mtawarira, A Strauss, J du Plessis, E Etzebeth, J Kruger, F Louw, W Alberts, D Vermeulen.

Replacements: S Brits, CJ van der Linde, P Cilliers, F van der Merwe, M Coetzee, M Steyn, J de Jongh, L Mvovo.



  1. Jimbob

     /  November 9, 2012

    I’m still so excited and strangely optimistic considering watching Deccy’s Ireland is so painful at times. I’d love to see NWJMB make an impact off the bench but aside from the props, he’s arguably the least likely so get a run.

  2. Rich

     /  November 9, 2012

    Excited – lot of gas in that backline and a few players will take their chance in this one. Hoping for a few carries from o’mahoney early doors to get him into the game. Zebo could sink or swim lets hope the experienced wingers either side can help get the best of him.

    If OGara comes on after 60 mins and sexton moves to 12 I won t be surprised – all this talk of combinations for the past week is just pap – kidney is still playing some sort of mind game with the players and media – does he think he is Derren brown? Redden/sexton
    works well why not at least have that combo in an otherwise inexperienced team……

    • My feeling on Zebo exactly. His game actually looks better suited to fullback (good under the high-ball, big boot, runs good lines from deep – and his tackling weakness will be less exposed)…but it would have been nice to see him play there for Munster or an Ireland XV first before being thrown in against the 3rd best team in the world, which tends to favour testing fullbacks. Sink or swim indeed (and you have to say Kidney would not have entrusted such a role to a non-Munster player sadly). Hopefully not the making or breaking of Zebo the international though. Overall excited to see if it will work.

      Even though the selection of Murray may have been inevitable, it still doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Whether for Munster or Ireland he is too slow at the breakdown and that is the primary role of a scrumhalf. He and Sexton clearly do not play well together. Against that background, the fact we need to get some results this November and the fact Reddan has done well against Pienaar in the last few head-to-heads, it would have seemed logical to pick Reddan. Regardless, hopefully Marshall gets the nod for the XV.

    • Surprise, surprise on the ROG front. His kicking the ball away at the end said it all: he clearly isn’t even up for it himself anymore.

      • offiah

         /  November 12, 2012

        Exactly, he didn’t fancy contact so kicked it away. Mads, Keatley or PJ have to be blooded.

        Lack of gain lining ability and any invention in the back line is a serious worry for this management team.

  3. ruckinhell

     /  November 9, 2012

    There’s a notable lack of hefty ballcarriers in that pack- Healy and Heaslip are the two only really top class ball carriers with Strauss, Ryan, Henry and O’Mahony all falling into the “handy carriers” category. The Boks have a serious amount of beef in the pack and I fear that we’ll be pummelled into submission biltong style.

    I ,for one, welcome our new WJMB overlord. I haven’t been this exciting about a youngster Irish forward since a bizarely coiffed Paul O’Connell (Seven feet tall he was, with arms like tree trunks. His eyes were like steel: cold, hard. Had a shock of hair, red, like the fires of Hell) broke onto the scene for Munster.

    • Len

       /  November 9, 2012

      Love the description of POC

    • Jimbob

       /  November 9, 2012

      Yep, General Sherman. They say he’s five hundred pounds of bottom-dwelling fury, don’t you know. No one knows how old he is, but if you ask me, and most people do, he’s hundred years if he’s a day.

  4. Len

     /  November 9, 2012

    I’m not happy with the choice of Murray at 9. While a you say he’s got the edge on physicality and he does make some good breaks he has consistently failed to provided clean fast ball while in the green. I think getting the ball away from each ruck fast and before the bok pack get any kind of foot hold will be important if we are to beat them. My worry is that by the time Reddan is introduced after 60-70 minutes to much damage will be done.

    Not as happy as you with Zebo at FB. I’d have preferred Earls at FB with Cave in the centre and the rest staying as is with Zebo dropping to the bench. I totally agree with you re Jackson’s inclusion on the bench, it’s time we stopped worrying about the feelings of the golden generation players coming to the end of their careers and started to look to the future.

    Of the rest I’d have preferred to have seen Bent play for Leinster before being included in an Irish team but the other option is Tom Court and he can’t play tighthead. I look forward to Henderson coming on. Hopefully they’ll give at least 15 min to make some sort of impact. I only see McFadden coming in if there’s an injury or Darcy runs out of steam late on. Actually thinking about it I wouldn’t mind seeing what McF and Earls look like as a centre pairing.

  5. Cronin are fairly good impact player too.

  6. I know Strauss is a big boy and a professional and all the rest, but I can’t help feeling that his first test facing off against his cousin in the front row is a big ask. Maybe it won’t matter in the end, lets hope not.

    I’m not that excited to see zebo at full back, its only his second cap and in a foreign position, even if he plays well I expect him to make a few mistakes which could cost us dearly. It won’t be his fault and I will try not to blame him for the loss but that’s just what I expect.

    Also I can’t help but say that Kidney’s statement about zebo (I’ve been watching him for a good few years now – or words to that effect) rankled a little.

    To ruckinhell, hopefully McCarthy will offer some ball carrying options to go with healy and heaslip, I’m hoping for big things from macca.

    • ruckinhell

       /  November 9, 2012

      I think McCarthy might bring some serious grunt to the pack but I’d be happy enough if he brings that to the tight exchanges and manages to negate the monsters in the Saffer second row. I’m quite happy with his selection and think he merits inclusion but he’s not a guy I’d want to see popping up at first or second receiver in midfield (something that POC does far too often and to generally poor effect).

      We’re desperately light of guys who are guaranteed to get us on the front foot, basically it’s Healy, Heaslip and D’Arcy (what a change that makes- fleet footed wonder centre to world’s smallest crash ball specialist which is a mite harsh but fundamentally fair). POM and Henry are decent in the wide channels but don’t exactly strike the fear of God into the opposition. I’d like to see Bowe and Trimble used far more off the blindside wings on first phase, they’re both solid lumps and coming at pace will ensure that we have quick ball for second phase. Is it me or is this a move that has become very under-utilised by Ireland? I know JP Petersen off the blindside wing is one of the Saffers favourite plays.

      • Very good point, if McCarthy can keep someone like Etzebeth quiet he’ll have had a great game. I do think he is a bit better than POC at offloading and making yards if given the opportunity, see the Harlequins game this season for instance.

  7. Xyz

     /  November 9, 2012

    I’ve wanted to see new faces and in form players introduced and you know what, now that they are there, I’m getting excited. I’m probably committing the cardinal sin of the Irish sports fan in getting my hopes up before the game but better to live in hope.

    However, you have to still hand it to Deccie – injury is the only thing making the changes happen. As evinced by the presence of DOC and ROG on the bench.

    • Len

       /  November 9, 2012

      I’m starting to think some players will be part of the Irish set up until they decide otherwise and even a change of coach won’t change that.

  8. DaveF

     /  November 9, 2012

    Thanks for giving me a small bit of hope for tomorrow WOC. In many ways I feel like this game is lose-lose for Ireland. If/when we lose, there’ll be no-one in a good position to criticize Deccie’s lack of planning and poorly articulated/executed vision for the team. There’ll be a (legitimate) out for him: we had way too many injuries to our top players. It’s also a lose, in a way, if we win because the media will be back slapping Deccie like crazy for another one-off performance the team has managed. The underlying problems will still be there.

    Also, Deccie’s media statements this week weren’t exactly inspiring: ““We’ll do what we’ve always done,” said Kidney. “We won’t make any promises but we will give it our best shot.” Where’s the old Kidney go-to statement of “we’ll go out to win”. Not exactly a great vote of confidence there that your coach has suddenly lowered his stated aims for the team.

    All that said, I hate seeing Ireland lose and I’m hopeful we’ll see some good moments on the day at least.

  9. zdm

     /  November 9, 2012

    I was watching the highlights reel of the 2004 game against South Africa and two things struck me: the first is how actually sad it is that ROG is being kept (keeping himself?) in the squad until the last of the juice is squeezed out of him – he was some player in his day, he could absolutely dominate a game through talent and intelligence and his presence on a team sheet created genuine fear in the opposition such was his calibre in his pomp.

    The second is that we seem to have a track record of selecting baffling line ups against the Saffers – Shaggy at 12 anyone?
    The time for “I’d love to see x in the team” disappeared down the drain somewhere in Blackrock Private Clinic but Deccie said he would pick the team based on form and the best combinations – how is Ryan/McCarthy a better option than Tuohy/McCarthy? Surely the myth that Tuohy can’t lead a line out was put to bed long ago and he is the form 2nd row in the country. I seriously struggle to see what that combination brings to the party that has kept Tuohy out of the starting 15. Quite how Deccie kept a straight face at that point, knowing that he was going to pick O’Callaghan on the bench is beyond me.

    The bench that Ireland have named is honestly hair-brained – none of the players named on the bench, with the exception of Strauss is the 2nd best in their position in the country at the minute and to name no replacement full back or outside centre given the current situation is lunacy. NWJMB is a star of the future for sure but just as it has been bad for O’Mahoney to be tipped for stardom and then shunted around the back row for a year, I don’t see what the benefit of naming a 2nd row as a replacement flanker against the 3rd best team in the world is going to achieve.

    I’ll leave out the fact that Zebo has never even played full back before at any level and the fact that our best full back is keeping our best outside centre out of the team for another day – others here seem to have faith in these choices so I am willing to be surprised.

  10. A bit of shoe pie

     /  November 9, 2012

    I’ve always been the eternal optimist in the run up to Ireland games and it’s no different this time around. Genuinely excited that NWJMB has got a place in a Kidney squad so early on in his career, yet a little disappointed that this approach was not followed through elsewhere. ROG is one of the all time greats, but Kidney surely has a responsibility to build something for the next world cup. I understand Deccies logic in that there are valuable ranking points up for grabs, but what’s the point in being a second seed if the team you bring to the world cup isn’t developed enough to stand toe to toe with the big guns. Young players in great form like Marshall, Cave and Bend it like Jackson should be on the bench for a game like this, they have everything to gain from it. Being involved in a tight game against the bosh merchants would have been brilliant for their development, but alas short termism continues to prevail with trusted old hands like DOC and ROG on the bench and Darcy on the pitch. Maybe I’ll feel a wee bit different when ROG comes on and knocks over a winning drop kick in the last minute…

  11. gibbsey

     /  November 9, 2012

    @ruckinhell you made me laugh man! I hope Skrela sticks as well, funny stuff

    While there is a serious lack of ballast in the pack and hard yards may be…..erm…..hard come by, I am excited by the dynamic Henry brings. Hopefully he can make a nuisance of himself at the breakdown and the saffers wont be getting to much quick ball.

    The back three certainly have the skills to cause some damage on the counter and one of the 3 of them flying at the line at speed may be our best source of front ball.

    I have a nervous confidence about this game and even if we lose I am happy to see some new combinations, forced or not.

  12. Rich

     /  November 10, 2012

    As an ulster fan – I can say watching this seasons stuff that keatley is def ahead of jackson, and although he has played out of position, I rate Madigan ahead of Jackson also. The pair of them must be fuming. I was all for the selection of Cave at 13 and Earls at 15, but Cave will get his chance in this series. For now Earls had the shirt and he deserves a go, Zebo has shown huge character to step up and play 15 and shows the attitude of the boy, and as those before have said, he could well prosper in that role.

    This team is the change (admittedly forced) we have asked for – raw young players with a point to prove – its what careers are built on. Wayne Barnes could have an impact – don t tend to do too well with him!

  13. Offiah

     /  November 10, 2012

    All marginal calls went with what Deccie knows, Munster players.
    This has been going on for far too long

    Ryan hasn’t been playing well and also at 6. Touhy must be fuming.
    Pom hasn’t been playing 6. Locky and Henderson have been the form players
    Murray has done nothing to start. Redser should be in
    Earls. No rugby under his belt. Cave or Ferg should be in
    Zero’s never played 15 in pro rugby. What does Mads have to do?
    Kilcoyne hasn’t played enough pro rugby. Court is in great form
    Doc shouldnt be in training squads. What did Touhy do?
    Rog should retire! I’d have Mads, but either of PJ or Keatley would of been better.

    Hopefully I’m proved wrong over Ryan and Pom, and Zebo has a cracker.
    Also hope Trimble doesn’t get caught out defensively again!

    A stronger 23 would be:
    Healy, Strauss, Ross, Touhy, McCarthy, Locky, Henry, Heaslip, Reddan, Sexy, Ferg, Darce, Cave, Bowe and Earls.
    Cronin, Court, Bent, Ryan, Henderson, Marshall, Mads and Zebo

    Stronger pack and better defensive backs but also good strike runners.
    Bench has an impact and covers all injuries

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