Ireland’s forwards can channel Australia to take on the might of South Africa’s forwards, according to former Leinster and Ulster head coach Matt Williams.
Ireland hosts the runners up to the 2022 Rugby Championship in Dublin on November 5th. It will serve as a dress rehearsal for Andy Farrell’s side’s clash with the Springboks in the World Cup group stages next year.
While some have suggested that New Zealand are the preferable knockout opponent over the Springboks, owing to the South African physicality, Matt Williams was skeptical that Ireland cannot compete with the Bok might.
Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Williams explained Ireland’s recent history against the All Blacks dispels the nagging sense that Ireland can’t compete with the South African power.
“South Africa do play a power game, there’s no two ways about that, and they’re very, very good at it,” Williams said.
“They have a very powerful rushing defence, where they compact their line…it is annoying and it's difficult, and it’s aimed at stopping teams that like to run the ball.”
Williams suggested that before facing South Africa in November, Andy Farrell and Ireland will have looked at the way Australia played against the Boks in Adelaide and how New Zealand played against them in Ellis Park.
Both played wide, expansive rugby, which he claims the Springboks do not like, and which Ireland are very good at.
Weather could aid South Africa in Ireland
The only problem with that tactic, however, could be down to the weather. Williams spoke about how dry ball helped Australia in Adelaide and New Zealand in Ellis Park, but if it’s a wet day at the Aviva in November Ireland could be in trouble.
“On a wet day… if it's raining in November, it’s advantage Springboks,” Williams said. “They are so hard to beat.”
Williams added that he is not sure if Ireland would prefer to play South Africa or prefer to play New Zealand, as they are both great at what they do. Ireland’s pack will not be afraid to compete with the South Africans.
“Australia are not a big side, up front they’re not giants… and they took them [South Africa] on really well,” Williams said.
“So, this is not beyond the Irish pack’s capability, you have to be at your best, you have to be smart, and things have to go your way, but It’s not beyond Ireland’s capabilities to take on their [South Africa’s] pack and to dominate them.”
Ireland will begin their Autumn internationals against South Africa on Saturday November 5th at the Aviva stadium, followed by a test against Fiji a week later, and finishing the series against Australia on Saturday November 19th.
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