Ireland's CJ Stander and his South African-born team-mates will bring their passion to bear in a green jersey over the forthcoming Test series and in a bid to show their former compatriots what they are missing, believes Irish forwards coach Simon Easterby, writes Simon Lewis, Irish Examiner Rugby Correspondent.
IRUPA players' player of the year Stander, the Munster back rower, Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss and uncapped Connacht lock Quinn Roux all touched down in Cape Town as Irishmen having each left the country of their birth long behind.
This Saturday's first Test at Newlands, the opening encounter of three with the World Cup semi-finalist Springboks over the next month, will be a first opportunity to showcase their talents on South African soil since leaving their homeland and signing with Irish provinces as project players.
Stander qualified on residency after three seasons with Munster last November and made a big impression following his Test debut in the Six Nations opener with Wales last February, winning the man of the match award and going on to play in all five games.
Easterby would not bet against the 26-year-old making a similar impact in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
“CJ’s shown with his form over the last three seasons with Munster, he’s been outstanding,” the forwards coach said on Tuesday. “He’s been a real talisman for them. He’s come into our Six Nations squad and done particularly well.
“He plays with his heart on his sleeve and is a real leader. He’ll be emotional at the weekend along with Quinn and Richardt. Guys that are very passionate about where they were brought up but hugely passionate about wearing the green jersey.
“To a man that has come through, not just in this week since arriving in South Africa, but also the build-up. You get a sense that they’ve very keen to show the country that they were born in what they’re missing.”
Easterby, who reported a clean bill of health among the 32 travelling players, added that playing the Springboks meant every Ireland player had to be prepared for an intense physical battle. He added it would take more than just brawn to repeat their four victories in Dublin since 2004 and claim a first win on South African soil.
“They’ve watched and played against a lot of those players. The physicality is something that the South Africans pride themselves on. It’s also something that Irishman pride themselves on as well. We also have to be smart in terms of what we do and not just the physicality.
“The players have to individually prepare themselves each time they take the field and make sure they’re in right place mentally so they get all their little roles right so physically they can go and do our job and do that with intensity. That’s a really important factor in what we do.
“We have to make sure we get our details right – we very clear about our roles so we can bring that physicality and intensity. That’s an important factor wherever we play but it will be even more so at the weekend.”