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Highlights on Off The Ball


South Africa have weaknesses that Ireland will be looking to exploit | WEDNESDAY NIGHT RUGBY

Ireland will look to capitalise on South Africa's weaknesses in order to beat them in Paris on Saturday, according to The Independent's Ruaidhri O'Connor.

Ireland will look to capitalise on South Africa's weaknesses in order to beat them in Paris on Saturday, according to The Independent's Ruaidhri O'Connor.

Pool B of the Rugby World Cup will largely come down to who walks away from Paris with a win between the World No. 1 side Ireland, and the World Champions South Africa.

It has been billed as the biggest game of the pool stages, and one of the most anticipated pre-knockout game of this year's tournament.

Ireland come into the clash with a load of momentum, having been unbeaten in 14 games, and scoring a combined 141 points against Tonga and Romania in the opening two rounds.

This follows a Grand Slam earlier in the year, and a series win over New Zealand in 2022.

However, the Springboks charge into Saint-Denis with 96 points total against Romania and Scotland in the first two rounds, conceding just the sole penalty against Scotland so far in the World Cup.

While their Rugby Championship campaign was not as emphatic as Ireland's Grand Slam, South Africa inflicted New Zealand's heaviest ever loss in Twickenham a week before the World Cup, and have conceded only 39 points in their last five games.

It is a titanic battle that will dictate the result of the group.

Every team has their weaknesses

Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Ruaidhri O'Connor broke down the weaknesses that the Springboks have that Ireland will look to exploit at the Stade de France.

"Every team has weaknesses," O'Connor said. "Even the great All Blacks team of '11 and '15 had weaknesses, finding them was very difficult.

"This South Africa team, they're obviously the World Champions, they carry an aura as Springboks. But they've lost to New Zealand three times, Australia three times, England once, Ireland once, France once, Wales once. They've lost to nearly everyone in this cycle.

"They've had to resort to haranguing referees through the media, after every time they lose they blame the ref. They don't have a recognised goal kicker, that's the most glaring obvious weakness in this squad."

Libbok and goal kicking are a problem for the Springboks

In his only game of the World Cup so far against Scotland, South African flyhalf Manie Libbok left the pitch with only a 40% success rate from the kicking tee.

While Libbok was rested against Romania, Damian Willemse took over the majority of kicking duties, and came away with a 71% success rate, although he had a lot of practice with the number of tries scored.

In between Willemse and Libbok is occasional kicker Faf de Klerk, who has a 50% success rate following cameos with the boot in both matches.

For O'Connor, South Africa's inability to find a consistent goal kicker in the squad without Handre Pollard, who was not considered for selection against Ireland, is a glaring weakness for the defending champions.

"If you look at the success rate of all the goal kickers of this tournament, Libbok is right down the bottom," O'Connor said. "Only just ahead of him is Faf de Klerk, and just ahead of him is Damian Willemse. They have three of the least effective goal kickers at this tournament.

"If you think about the way they won the World Cup four years ago, it was based almost entirely on winning penalties, Handre Pollard kicking those penalties, and then cutting loose in the last 20 minutes where possible.

"Libbok was brilliant in the New Zealand game before the World Cup started, but there was no pressure on him that night. He kicked the goal to beat Ulster in the URC semi-final last year.

"He is capable of delivering, but there's no reliability to it."

South Africa's Bomb Squad is lacking a hooker

South Africa were dealt a major blow with Malcolm Marx being ruled out for the entire tournament last week with an ACL injury.

In spite of going a hooker down, head coach Jacques Nienaber opted to not replace Marx with another front rower, deciding instead that Deon Fourie and flanker Marco van Staden were sufficient cover. O'Connor is less convinced.

"They've no recognised reserve hooker on their bench," O'Connor said. "Deon Fourie has played there in the past, but it's been a number of years since he's done it on a regular basis.

"He may be able to do a job there, but at international level, coming off the bench to play against a Ronan Kelleher, Rob Herring or Dan Sheehan, that's a different challenge.

"Ireland will attack that seam. They'll attack his throwing. If Marco van Staden, who's played even less at hooker, is thrown in, they'll attack his throw as well.

"Maybe they'll get away with it, but it is a risk factor."

Struggling against Irish opposition

For O'Connor, the excellence of Ireland has not been given the spotlight it deserves. He believes South Africa have struggled against Irish opposition.

"Ireland are a consistently excellent team, who deserve the same kind of awe when the team is read out as this South African team," O'Connor said.

"The reaction I find to the Boks naming their team sometimes is just way over the top. There are players there who've lost to Munster recently with the Stormers in a final.

"There are players who have struggled against Irish opposition across the URC and Champions Cup. I know they're better when they put on that green jersey.

"I know they have an excellent coaching ticket and an incredible defensive system. There are frailties there as well. If you beat that rush, well then they're in trouble."

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