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'There's nothing wrong with the confidence' - Gert Smal

It’s those niggly little details that have tripped Ireland up for the past 18 months, explained the Irish coach.

Ireland assistant coach Gert Smal.
Ireland assistant coach Gert Smal.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IRELAND CAPTAIN JAMIE HEASLIP commented after his side had succumbed 16-12 to South Africa that the coaching staff would replay the game at least 10 times as they came to terms with a disappointing loss.

Perhaps that is why Ireland’s forwards coach Gert Smal talks about getting the little details right so much.

“There’s nothing wrong with the confidence,” Smal responded when asked about a worrying run of just six wins in 20 test matches.

“They need to get certain things right but they are confident they can do it.”

The South African revealed that many of his countrymen, from the Springbok team, were ‘very worried after the first half’. The Boks were so worried that they restricted Ireland to one scoring chance in the second-half – a 47-metre penalty attempt by Jonny Sexton.

“The guys took it to them physically,” Smal told TheScore.ie.

The thing we have to do [next time] is get our ball carriers to be more aggressive, then we can get forward momentum. We [must] clear out at the breakdown quicker.

“If we can get that done we will get the backline moving the way we want it to.”

The backline looks likely to be shorn of Tommy Bowe’s services. Smal confirmed that the Ulster winger has a dead leg but would be fit for the Argentina clash on 24 November.

“We didn’t execute in certain areas of the pitch and didn’t have momentum,” he added. “It was nothing to do without confidence.”

A fallow period

The latest in a long series of worries is the fact that this Irish side have not seriously threatened the tryline in their last two games – the All Blacks in Hamilton and against South Africa at Lansdowne Road.

“In the past four games we have played some of the best in the world,” argues Smal. “You really have to be spot on in getting those line breaks.”

It is almost impossible to explain away the team’s latest reversal without mentioning the players that missed out on the action. Smal feels the lineout suffered, in part, after losing Paul O’Connell and Stephen Ferris in the 10 days leading up to the match.

As forwards coach, Smal highlights the ‘big game’ Mike McCarthy had, praises Michael Bent’s sharpness and predicts a special future for ‘nuggety player’ Richardt Strauss.

As for the JP Pietersen yellow card and the jersey-ruffling that followed, Smal does not believe it was a tactic used by the Boks to fire themselves up.

Smal said, “It was maybe the passion of both teams for the game.

The South African mentality is quite calm but when they go onto the pitch they can be quite aggressive. It’s the same with the Irish. They have that Irish fire.

“They are not going to sit back so you are bound to get that bit of argy-bargy in an international game.”

‘I don’t see myself as a South African rugby player at all’ – Richardt Strauss

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Patrick McCarry

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