Ireland's Simon Zebo and Jared Payne tackle Jean de Villiers of South Africa Springboks
Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
By Grainne McGuinness and Shaun Cronin
Simon Zebo said he is delighted with the performances of Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw against South Africa yesterday after all the hype surrounding them in the build-up to the match.
The pair put in strong performances during Ireland’s unexpected 29-15 victory over the Springboks in the Aviva, with a cross-field kick from Henshaw crucial in the build-up to Ireland's first try.
“The two of them are delighted and I’m delighted for both of them,” he said when being interviewed after the match.
The Munster start was unimpressed when asked if the other players had “nursed” the two centres through the game.
“No, not at all, they’re unbelievably talented players,” he said dismissively. “The two are very experienced players and at the end of the day it’s another game of rugby.”
Zebo said head coach Joe Schmidt had put total faith in the players he had chosen, refusing to use Ireland’s extensive injury list as an excuse.
”Joe gives that inner belief to all members of the squad,” explained Zebo. “Whoever’s lucky enough to get the shirt will go out and do it proud.”
He also felt the level of discussion around Schmidt's selection of Henshaw and Payne at 12 and 13 was excessive.
“All the hype building up to it around the two boys playing I think was a bit much,” he suggested. “There’s great depth in the players we have in this country. Anybody can step up and do a job.”
Zebo said there was still room for improvement after the performance and the team would not be getting complacent for the upcoming matches against Georgia and Australia.
“There’s obviously parts of the game we weren’t too happy with”, he said. “There are things we’ll need to iron out next week and the week after.”