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'It's going to be such a cauldron' - Ireland wary of a wounded Springbok outfit in Joburg

Jamie Heaslip has tasted success at Ellis Park with the Lions and he’s hoping to guide Ireland to a historic series win this weekend.

Heaslip in training today.
Heaslip in training today.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Rory Keane reports from Johannesburg 

IRELAND ARE PREPARING for an almighty backlash from the Springboks at Ellis Park on Saturday, says Jamie Heaslip.

As Joe Schmidt’s side target a first-ever series win against South Africa, they know they will be facing a wounded Springbok outfit who will be looking to avenge their 26-20 defeat at Newlands.

And Heaslip, who played at Ellis Park in the victorious third British and Irish Lions Test in 2009, is fully aware of the challenge.

“It’s going to be such a cauldron and really exciting especially with the proud support that South Africans bring to these games and then just Irish people, I don’t know where they come out from but they always turn up somewhere anyway and you can always hear them,” said the Ireland number eight.

“We have a lot of experience in European rugby playing back-to-back games and I can tell you I know it’s a club game which is quite different to international rugby, but at European level it’s up there, it’s not too far off international rugby and those Christmas back-to-back games like one team can run away with it one week and then the following week it’s a completely different side.

“The other team that got beat out the gate comes flying back and even in tight games where one game might be tight the first week, the next game is blown wide open.

“So, when you play these internationals back-to-back, with all the analysis that goes in and the knowledge that players have of other players of what attacking and defensive coaches of both sides are learning from that first game coming into the second game, it poses all sorts of different challenges.

Joe Schmidt Joe Schmidt's side continued preparations at St David's Marist School today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“But at the essence of it, international rugby still boils down to the same thing which is the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is usually the team that comes out with the right outcome.”

Ireland’s defence and decision making was outstanding at Newlands with Heaslip, Jordi Murphy and makeshift flanker Andrew Trimble putting in huge shifts after CJ Stander’s dismissal in the 23rd minute.

For Heaslip, keeping the Boks scoreless while Robbie Henshaw was in the sin-bin was the highlight of a memorable performance.

“I thought when we went down to 13 men I think we actually won that period 3-0,” he said.

“With 14 men it was great that there was a focus on that kind of task by task, moment by moment challenge that presented itself be it a scrum and trying to problem solve around that on both sides of the ball. With our lineout, trying to problem solve around that and Dev managed that really well with the lineout.

“Conor and Rory managed the scrum very well and then Jacko calling the plays around where we were.

“Panic didn’t set in and that kind of focus that we had was really impressive especially with such a young squad that we have here. So, that’s something to take some confidence from.”

Jamie Heaslip celebrates after the match Heaslip put in another huge shift last weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Heaslip could empathise with Stander having been sent off himself against New Zealand in New Plymouth in 2010.

The Leinster back rower was red carded by referee Wayne Barnes for kneeing Richie McCaw in the head with Ireland forced to defend with 14 men for the next 65 minutes.

It went from bad to worse when Ronan O’Gara was sent to the sin-bin five minutes later for impending Cory Jane as he chased a kick ahead. By half-time, the hosts were leading 38-7 before they piled on more misery in the second half in a rout that finished 66-28.

“I’ve been involved where we’ve got down to 14 men with a sin-binning or whatever and it hasn’t gone our way,” Heaslip added.

“I’ve been in CJ’s shoes where you’ve been sent off early and you have to watch a game that kind of just opens up.

“So, to have experienced that at international level against a top quality side and then to come here on Saturday as well as it being the first time we’ve won down here, if that was home or away, it was quite a proud moment to see such a collective effort in the squad.”

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