In a thrilling Six Nations opener, Ireland secured a victory over France, but the final scoreline may have slightly overstated their dominance due to the French playing with 14 men for a significant portion of the match. As the Springboks prepare for their two-Test series against Ireland later this year, there are several key takeaways from this encounter.
Close down Jamison Gibson-Park
Ireland’s scrumhalf, Jamison Gibson-Park, was a standout performer, showcasing his versatility and playmaking abilities. His quick service and strategic decision-making kept the Irish attack dynamic. However, when facing the Springboks, Gibson-Park is likely to face increased pressure and a more aggressive defensive line, led by players like Pieter-Steph du Toit. Containing him will be a priority for Rassie Erasmus’ squad.
Sort out breakdown issues
Ireland’s proficiency at disrupting the breakdowns created problems for France, preventing them from building momentum with ball-in-hand. Whether it’s Josh van der Flier, Andrew Porter, or Peter O’Mahony, Irish players consistently interfered with French possession. The Springboks will need to address this issue, focusing on cleaning out Irish forwards to ensure quick ball delivery for their potent backline.
Exploit scrum opportunities
Despite possessing reputedly strong props in Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong, Ireland didn’t establish clear scrum dominance, even when France had seven players due to Paul Willemse’s cards. This presents an opportunity for the Springboks, with their formidable resources in the front row, to target the scrums during their upcoming matches against Ireland. Understanding the Irish scrummaging approach will be essential.
Contain Bundee Aki and James Lowe
Ireland’s attacking strategy aims to create space for the likes of Bundee Aki and James Lowe. Aki, known for his strength and dynamism, can be a game-changer when given room to operate. Damian de Allende, the Springboks’ defensive stalwart, will face the challenge of containing him. Lowe, a versatile winger, possesses both offensive and defensive prowess, making him a crucial player to monitor. His ability to adapt to various game situations poses a threat.
France’s late substitutions in the second half, coupled with Paul Willemse’s yellow cards, contributed to their loss of momentum. The Springbok coaching staff has historically been astute in managing substitutions, ensuring they inject fresh energy at the right moments. Timing and monitoring player energy levels will be crucial for maintaining an edge over the lively Irish team.
As the Springboks gear up for their test series against Ireland, these five key takeaways from Ireland’s Six Nations victory should guide their preparations. While acknowledging the Irish team’s impressive performance, it’s essential to adapt and refine their strategy to ensure a successful campaign in 2024. Captain Siya Kolisi and coach Rassie Erasmus will undoubtedly analyze these aspects as they aim to continue their rugby excellence on the international stage.