Dan Sheridan/INPHO Kilcoyne is vying with Jack McGrath for Ireland's number one jersey.
Kilcoyne picks the brains of BJ Botha ahead of powerful Boks test
The loosehead prop made his Ireland debut against South Africa two years ago.

THIS SATURDAY WILL mark almost two years to the day since Dave Kilcoyne made his Ireland debut in Dublin against South Africa.

The 25-year-old was a replacement for Cian Healy off the bench on that “huge” occasion, but hopes to have a more telling impact this time around against the Springboks.

Two seasons with Munster and nine further Ireland caps have seen Kilcoyne’s mindset shift notably in comparison to the natural nerves he felt when making his international bow during a 16-12 defeat in 2012.

The Limerick man says he is “more goal-focused” now, far more concentrated on thriving against the highly-regarded South African pack.

Tomorrow will see Joe Schmidt announce his starting team to face the Boks, but even if Kilcoyne is beaten to the number one shirt by Jack McGrath, he will have an important role to play off the bench.

“It definitely brings people on,” says Kilcoyne of the competition within the Ireland group, even without Healy being fit.

When there’s competition within your squad you have to perform week in, week out to hold onto that jersey. It brings the best out of everyone and makes squads better, makes the team better.

“I’ll be trying to deliver on my side of the scrum. We’ve a saying here – every man does his own job. That makes the next person’s job easier. So I’ll be 100% scrum-focused and trying to deliver around the pitch to try and help the team.”

Kilcoyne has been “really happy” with his form for Munster over the course of the opening months of the season, combining well with James Cronin to ensure that loosehead is an area of particular strength for Anthony Foley’s side.

Dave Kilcoyne takes to the field to make his debut James Crombie / INPHO Kilcoyne made his Ireland debut against the Boks in 2012. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

A further advantage of his provincial background has been the chance to pick South African veteran BJ Botha’s brains recently, with Kilcoyne benefiting from several tips courtesy of the former Boks tighthead.

“BJ would give you an insight into their thinking. He’s got a lot of caps over the years for them and was a central figure at tighthead for them. He gave us an insight into the mindset of the South African pack, especially at scrum and maul time, which was useful.

He just said that they can tend to go on their own battles sometimes, so it’s just about taking them on as an eight and not doing it individually.”

Working as a unit is the key if Ireland’s pack is to overcome the daunting power of Meyer’s men. In that regard, new forwards coach Simon Easterby has been making some minor tweaks to the foundations laid by John Plumtree, as Ireland look to grow from what was an excellent base last season.

“I think John had good systems in place and Simon has come in and put his own stamp on things. We probably defend mauls differently, small things like that, but we talked about the need to make constant improvements and never being happy with where we are.

“I know last year in the Six Nations, the line-out and maul percentages were quite high. We’ve talked about now improving on them and making them higher again.”

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