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VIDEO: Ireland expects huge physical battle at Loftus

SPOTLIGHT: According to Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony, his side will come up against the best set-piece in world rugby when they face the World Champions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

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That could be an accurate statement given that the Springboks’ set-piece played a massive role in their back-to-back World Cup victories.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus went for the tried and tested when he picked his side for the first of two Tests against the Irish at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Ox Nche and Frans Malherbe will face Ireland while Vincent Koch is set to enter the fray from the bench along with Gerhard Steenekamp.

The big question ahead of the first Test is if the game will be won through an aerial battle, similar to how the Bulls disposed of Leinster in the semifinal of the United Rugby Championship, or if it will be a forward-based onslaught.

When O’Mahony sat down with the media during a briefing after Ireland had their captains run at St Peter’s College in Woodmead on Friday afternoon, it was evident that he expected a tough battle up front.

Under scrum coach John Fogarty, the Ireland scrum will surely pose a different threat than the Leinster pack did despite it being largely the same pack that faced the Bulls.

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O’Mahony made it clear that they had done their homework over the last ten days.

Especially as the Boks also managed to put the Irish line-out under a huge amount of pressure at the World Cup last year.

“We’ve certainly gone back and looked at that and tried to fix some of those issues,” the captain said.

“A huge part of Test rugby is picking up lessons and learnings and fixing things and trying to keep them fixed.

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“That’s the important thing, not just having them fixed for a couple of games and having them sneak back in.

“The set-piece is an unbelievable part of Test rugby.

“We’ll be coming in against probably the best set-piece in the world tomorrow [Saturday] and that’s a great challenge for us.

“And what a challenge.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us to try and show what we are about and try and contain one of the best set-pieces in the world,” O’Mahony explained.

(Article continues below O’Mahony interview…)

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He added that it was tough to predict what to expect from a Springbok side with new coaches in the mix and only one Test match, against Wales, under the belt.

“We always do our analysis, it’s very much about us and Test match week.

“We give the utmost respect to our opposition in the analysis that we do.

“We certainly had a look at what they did against Wales.

“But they are only one Test in so it’s hard to predict what is coming.

“I don’t think they are going to go away from what they are good at – obviously [they are] World Champions for a reason and that base for their game isn’t going to change.

“I am sure there will be new things and things that will throw curveballs at us, but that’s Test rugby and that’s what you have to adapt to,” he concluded.

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