Ireland training at the IRFU's high performance centre. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Mind Games

'Let them keep talking' - Ireland not interested in war of words with Boks

Mike Catt said the hype around this tour is exciting for the Irish players.

THE SPRINGBOKS HAVE been chipping away at Ireland in recent months but Andy Farrell’s men have no interest in returning fire.

Eben Etzebeth, Damian de Allende, and Cheslin Kolbe have all decided to publicly raise the stakes ahead of next month’s two-Test series, giving an insight into South Africa’s ferocious desire to take Ireland down.

Ireland have won the last three games between these sides, including a pool-stage victory at last year’s World Cup, meaning the Boks feel they have a score to settle.

Whatever about the words coming from the South African camp, Ireland won’t be veering from their usual path as they look to do their talking on the pitch.

“For us, it’s not a problem,” said Ireland assistant coach Mike Catt today as they get set to travel to South Africa on Wednesday.

“People can say what they want, it means nothing to us. It’s something we don’t particularly worry about.

“Let them keep talking, it’s not a problem. It doesn’t fuel anything, it doesn’t make it any better or worse. We know exactly what we need to do to go down there and be successful.”

That said, the spicy statements from the Springboks add to Ireland’s excitement about this trip.

There is a worry outside Ireland camp about the Irish players finding the energy to take on the Boks after a long season, but Catt said that’s not reflected on the inside.

They want to be the first Irish team to win a series in South Africa.

“It’s never been done before,” said Catt. “We haven’t spoken about it, whether it gets spoken about today it might be the case, but we went down to New Zealand [in 2022] to challenge ourselves to do something that had never been done before.

mike-catt Mike Catt at Ireland training. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“I think that’s going to be the same situation, us going to South Africa against the world champions.

“The hype is big, it’s massive. It’s massively exciting. It’s a huge challenge, we understand it’s a huge challenge, but we’re going to embrace it and go with it.

“I think every time you pull on a green jersey is massively important. You’re inspiring the nation. Andy and the team have done exceptionally well in doing that and it’s making sure we maintain that and keep that level very high so we can inspire young kids to come into the game, and the rest of the nation to support us.”

The new-found rivalry between Irish and South African rugby makes this series all the more anticipated.

Having the South African clubs in the URC has helped heat things up since 2021 but the real key has been Ireland and the Springboks actually playing each other. Farrell’s side won in Dublin in 2022 after a five-year gap in fixtures, then again in Paris last year.

“The rivalry’s been good, that’s what you want at Test level, it’s why you play the game,” said Catt. “We’ve been pretty successful over the past three times we’ve played them, they’re chomping at the bit.

“There’s been a lot said in the press and this and that, it’s getting rid of all the white noise, what’s important for us is to put in a hell of a performance, and go and challenge to win a series down in South Africa.

“It’s healthy, you want that rivalry. You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.”

Catt confirmed that while some players hadn’t taken part in all training since Ireland gathered last Thursday, they expect all of their 35-man squad to be fit for selection ahead of the first Test on Saturday 6 July in Pretoria.

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