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VIDEO: SA locks get huge compliment from Irish legend

VIDEO: South Africa’s two Springbok locks are the best in the business.

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So says Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell, a man who is widely recognised as one of the best locks in the world during his playing days.

South Africa host Ireland in the first of their two-Test series at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and the mind games around these two teams have been rife.

O’Connell is a legend of Ireland and when he finished his career with the national team in 2015, he was Ireland’s third most-capped player.

During his lengthy career, he also captained Munster, Ireland, and the British & Irish Lions. He was inducted into the RugbyPass Hall of Fame in 2021, the same year he was appointed as the national teams’ coaching staff.

O’Connell sat down to face media at St Peters College in Woodmead on Tuesday after the Irish had their training session on the school grounds.

Upon arriving at the fields, one could hardly see anything through the hessian covers that had been attached to the fence around the field. The only thing indicating that there were some high-profile players on the field was a drone circling above the field.

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O’Connell was reminded of the match against the Springboks at the World Cup last year when his side’s line-out was disrupted by the Boks from the word go.

Ireland went on to win the dramatic and intense match 13-8 but at one stage in the first period, they had won just two out of their seven throws, with Ronan Kelleher struggling both in accuracy and against the Bok contests.

Fortunately for Ireland, things did improve as the fixture wore on – and Dan Sheehan entered the fray – but it is still something that haunts the forwards coach.

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“It’s always going to be a factor. They are an excellent set-piece side, they are an excellent line-out side, and they always have been,” O’Connell said about the Springboks.

“They caught us out at the start of the game in the World Cup. It was disappointing, it was frustrating. I was delighted with how the players managed their way through it.

“It will always be a challenge.

“Two of their operators in the line-outs, [Franco] Mostert and [Eben] Etzebeth are the best in the business. Etzebeth in particular is very good at the front of the line-out and Mostert generally covers everything in the back of the line-out.

“So they are a really good side.

“I think you have to focus on the opposition and what they are going to do but by and large we want to focus on ourselves.

“Probably more so than in my playing days.

“The boys enjoy it and I certainly enjoy it as a coach as well,” the coach said.

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O’Connell was asked about the United Rugby Championship and how the participation of the South African teams has made it easier to study the opposition and glean more insight into their way of doing things and how it eventually filters back through to the national side.

“The South African teams have been a brilliant addition in terms of [how they play] – they play differently. They all play differently but they all have that certain South African identity as well around set-piece, around maul, around scrum.

“And I think it has been really good for our players to learn to deal with that challenge and to train and prepare for it every week.

“I suppose they bring in a certain amount of intelligence in terms of that into our camp when we come together [at the national side].

“I think it has raised the standard of the URC massively.

“I think a lot of provinces have enjoyed when they have to go to South Africa for two weeks, they almost become like an international side. They stay in a hotel for two weeks and they get to work with the players rather than the players going home in the evening.

“I know a lot of provinces have benefitted from that.

“Any time there is good coaching and improvements happening in the provinces it always bleeds into us and helps us.”

Ireland will announce their team for the Test on Thursday.

 

 

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