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'We play a smart, tactical game' - Best's Ireland not buying Bok barbs

The retirement of Eoin Reddan is an additional motivation for Joe Schmidt’s men.

South Africa v Ireland, third Test, 4pm Irish time

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth [Sky Sports 1]

Rory Keane reports from Port Elizabeth 

RORY BEST is used to the criticism at this stage.

Not for the first time under the Joe Schmidt regime, Ireland have been accused of conservative and negative tactics by an opposition coach in the build-up to a big Test.

A view of the captain's run Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Springboks head coach Allister Coetzee has made his feelings very clear with regards to Ireland’s approach during this series. After the 14-man heroics of Cape Town, he said Ireland weren’t interesting in playing.

He was it at again during Thursday’s team announcement when he called on Ireland to come out of their shells and stop relying on penalties.

Ireland’s captain has heard it all before, with the likes of Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones having their say in the past.

“It’s like every press conference right through the Six Nations, everything, everyone says ‘you’re going to play more this week, you kick too much’,” said Best.

“Look, we play a smart, tactical game. We get field position and we can achieve that by kicking it but we’re equally adept at achieving it by running it. We play what’s in front of us and teams can say what they want about our game but we’re really happy with the standard of rugby that we play.

“We’ll take risks and have a go with the ball if it’s on but at the same time we’re not just going to run flippantly into brick walls to try and prove a point.

“For us, we have two great halfbacks that have controlled the game really well at times. We’ll put the faith in them, put the faith in the system and we’ll work our way around this pitch as smartly and as intelligently as we can.”

Joe Schmidt Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Best was there four years ago when an injury-depleted Irish were obliterated 60-0 by the All Blacks in Hamilton. There are many of the same variables at play ahead of today’s third Test decider against the Springboks.

Injuries to key players, check. A season spanning almost 52 weeks, check. There were rumours that the Ireland squad had packed their bags and checked out of their team hotel prior to that ill-fated Test at Waikato Stadium. Hardly ideal preparation against the best rugby team on the planet.

The Irish skipper insists this is a whole different set-up to the one which imploded in traumatic fashion on that 2012 tour. Under Schmidt, nothing is left to chance. The odds are very much stacked against Ireland today but Schmidt’s Ireland will always put up a fight.

“We try to forget about that,” said Best of the Hamilton horror show.

“Look, that was a different era in Irish rugby. When you look at the circumstances around that I think, you know, to bring Paddy Wallace off a beach on a Sunday afternoon to fly halfway across the world to try to play a game.

“He arrived on a Wednesday to play on a Saturday against the best team in the world. There’s so many things around that that were so much different.

“We’re better prepared, there’s faith put in, the like of, with JP [Jared Payne] being injured, Tiernan [O’Halloran] has trained all week and he is prepared to start. He gets a start that his performance deserves and there’s no trying to fly someone out to fill that spot.

Rory Best Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We have faith in the guys that are here and you hope that they’ll deliver. I think everything suggests they will with the performances to date, provincially, and the guys that have been given the opportunity so far have really produced and stepped up.

“I’m sure there are guys sitting at home with 30, 40, 50-plus caps that are probably slightly worried and are looking at it in a favourable light that Irish rugby is a lot more competitive.

“To go back to Hamilton, probably the other thing is that they’re all so young now that none of them really remember it. They were either playing underage rugby or maybe partying somewhere in some beach resort.

“And the guys that were there, you have to unfortunately put that down to mistakes and bad preparation and that’s not what this team is about.”

Eoin Reddan’s impending retirement will have focused Irish minds this week. A shot at history is at stake at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium today but giving a stalwart of Irish rugby a perfect send-off will provide plenty of added motivation against the Boks.

“I think when you look at his performances, especially the way he played against Ulster in the [Pro12] semi-final, it just shows that has so much more to give, but he has decided that the rugby chapter of his life is over,” said Best on his long-time Ireland team-mate.

“For me, I was in that squad in ‘06 when he made his debut in France and ever since then he has been massive part of this squad. The good thing about him is when he’s not starting, and when you’re behind a world-class player like Conor Murray it can be frustrating, but he always gives his time.

Mike Ross is watched as he attempts a kick at goal by Keith Earls, Andrew Trimble, CJ Stander and Tiernan O’Halloran Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s selfless in what he does to make sure the team is prepared and ready to go.

“He’ll be a massive loss to the squad going forward and for me personally, having known him for a while, you just have to thank him for everything that he’s done for Irish rugby. Unfortunately for Ulster, we have to thank him for everything he’s done for Leinster rugby and some of the performances he’s played against us.

“He’s just a fantastic player but more than that he’s just a fantastic guy to have around. He will be sorely missed as a player but he’ll be even more missed as a person around the place.”

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