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Gert Smal: 'I want to beat South Africa more than any Irishman'

Ireland’s South African forwards coach has his own reasons for ambushing the ‘Boks.

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

SOMETIMES, A PERSON will reveal more information by keeping their lips sealed than opening them to fill the air with words.

Declan Kidney will rarely leave a space for silence where he might find space to edge a word in. Inconsequential as it may be.

However, with his forwards coach, Gert Smal, you get the impression that he talks like he played.

The sentences lumber out slowly, and when asked about his home nation’s rugby team, the intensity in his voice grows.

“I think they are rigid in the way they want to play, but I don’t want to say too much… for certain reasons.”

Smal was a front-runner to take the head coaching position with the Springboks in January. However, in what must have been an agonising decision, he turned the job down so as not to disrupt his children’s schooling in Ireland.

Smal went on to highlight their tactic of kicking for territory, their maul and physicality. The latter being the one thing Ireland will need to match on November 10.

However, when he moved on to their performance in the Rugby Championship – in which they ended in joint second with Australia on 12 points, but were the only team to have given more than a losing bonus point to Argentina – Smal had to stop himself again.

“In terms of how they played during the competition, I think it’s… I actually don’t want to say more than that for the moment.

“But, it will be a tough one.” He said, reawakening his sentence. “Coming from the (Rugby) Championship tournament they will be well prepared, because all of their systems are in place. I don’t about what the injuries are like, but they will have quality players.

“It’s going to be a massive challenge and, like Declan says, this is why you want to be in coaching. You want to play these kind of games… especially because it’s South Africa. I want to beat South Africa more than any Irishman wants to beat them.”

And Smal won’t be the only man who once dreamed of wearing a Springbok to have switched allegiance. Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss has been included in his first Ireland squad and he will hope to face the nation of his birth six days after he becomes eligible.

“I think he’s a different player in the last two years, he has bulked up quite a bit.” Smal said about the former Free State Cheetah.

“I think his performance speak for itself. You know what he can do for the pack. For the past two years he really came through quite strongly, but we’ve looked at all the hookers – they’re still in the loop. We don’t discount anybody.


“(Richardt) has come in with a very good attitude, he’s good at the breakdown and good at the scrums. We’ll have to work with him a little bit on the line-out this year, I guess.”

Kidney, the man who ultimately decided to select Strauss, would later add: “He has bought into  everything Leinster have been doing. He has put his hand up, he has loved playing and, like Gert said, attitude is the one thing you can’t coach.

“When a fella brings that with him, that’s well worth selecting.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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