By Simon Lewis in Port Elizabeth.
Andrew Trimble believes Ireland must regain a sense of perspective after last Saturday's second Test defeat and remember there is still a series to be won this weekend.
No Irish team had won a Test in South Africa before Joe Schmidt's squad arrived on these shores but with that historic first victory away to the Springboks secured in the first Test in Cape Town 11 days ago, Trimble believes the team must rebound from the game that got away at Ellis Park last Saturday and focus on closing out the deal by securing a maiden series win.
Talking ahead of Saturday's final Test in Port Elizabeth, Trimble said: “I think it’s important that we get some perspective back and just remember that we still have a great opportunity to create a bit of history.
“We’re probably more aware now than we ever have been with how tough it’s going to be, how physical they are, how fast they are. Whenever they click, they’re very, very difficult to stop. We’ll have to look at a few things to figure out how to stop that.
“It is a tough place to come and play rugby. The Springboks are an absolute handful at times and we’re proud of a couple of occasions, especially our performance in the first Test and we’re proud of our performance for the first 60 minutes last weekend but we’ve a lot of to work on, we’re aware of these big occasions, these big intense moments in games and we need to start winning them if we’re going to win Test matches and win series.”
As chastening as it was for Ireland to squander a 26-10 lead with 20 minutes to go, eventually losing 32-26 to a rampant Springbok side as the starting players faded and the replacements failed to match the impact of the home bench, Trimble said his side had to forget that late collapse and look for positives from the excellent performance they produced over the first game and two thirds of this series.
“I think we’d be here all day if we talked through everything we should have learned or we could learn from the last 20 minutes of the game, but definitely it’s important that we get an impact from the bench as well. It’s important to put pressure on our ourselves to get to that level of performance that we were at for 55-60 minutes.
“Despite their being a lot of negatives looking back at the game thinking ‘how did we lose that game, how did we let it slip away’, we put ourselves into a great position and it’s important that we do that again.
“As much as there’s a lot we need to learn, there’s a lot credit to take from putting ourselves in that position in the first place and whenever we do that again, we just need to be more clinical and continue to do what we were doing for the first 50 minutes.
“Potentially, we maybe thought about winning the game rather than winning what was in front of us, that next phase, that next play or that next set-piece.”
If that is the case the Ulster and Ireland wing thinks the onus is on Schmidt's side to prove they have what it takes to live consistently with the Southern Hemisphere giants in their own backyard.
“I think it’s up to us to convince other people. I think we’re aware that we can be a quality side and win Test matches. We can come to the Southern Hemisphere and win games, but there’s no point in us talking about that, we need to prove that and back that talk up.
“We did that in Newlands, we showed an awful lot of character and dug in. We played some really good rugby that we’re really proud of, but to be taken seriously, you need to back that up and we didn’t do that at the weekend.
“I think the best sides out there, the type of side that we want to become is a side that backs it up and we haven’t backed it up yet.”