‘Our job is to represent Ireland as best we can’

IRELAND coach Declan Kidney yesterday refused to be drawn into the IRFU ticketing debate but said his side has a bigger responsibility than ever to perform, no matter how many people turn up at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.

With the IRFU climbing down on Monday night on its stance of penalising rugby clubs for sending back autumn international tickets perceived to have been set at inflated prices and promising to review its pricing structures for future games, Kidney was asked for his view on the matter as he named his team to face South Africa.

“There’s been hands put up to say errors have been made and these things happen in life so I suppose our concentration is on getting ready,” he said.

“Whether we have one person watching or we have 100,000, our job is the same and that is to represent Ireland as best we can.

“Hopefully as many people as possible will be able to get to the game but, being from Cork myself, I know the problems of travelling from the four corners, which is why I have never ever taken for granted the support that we get from people.

“Hopefully, whoever can afford it, can come and will be able to pick up tickets and get to the match, but whether it is one or 100,000, there’ll be people watching on television, be it at home or in the pub.

“Times are different now and that puts more onus on us to represent the jersey properly and that is the part of the job that is our concern. For the other part there’s people with the responsibility to look after that and we’ll let them get on with that. From our side, we’ve been entrusted to get ourselves ready for the match.”

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll also preferred to focus on what he knows best.

“People read papers and are aware of what’s going on but that’s for the union to deal with,” O’Driscoll said.

“It’s not a player issue. We want, as a team, to play in front of as many people as we possibly can. We want to be supported by packed houses because that’s what you get your buzz from and the best occasions are the ones when the capacity is at its maximum and at their most vocal. They can be worth a score to you at the most vital times and all going well we want to have a packed house but we’re certainly not going to get caught up in the ins and outs of what’s been going on with the ticket affair. We’ll concentrate on the rugby and hopefully let that do the talking.”

Meanwhile Springbok prop Gurthro Steenkamp has been named the South African player of the year for 2010.

There are also accolades for promising Lions youngster Elton Jantjies and Western Province star Gio Aplon, both of whom have also been selected by coach Peter de Villiers for the grand slam tour to Britain and Ireland.

Bulls forward Steenkamp beat off competition from winger Aplon, center Juan de Jongh, scrum-half Francois Hougaard and flanker Schalk Burger for the SARU top prize.

But the 29-year-old, capped 31 times by his country, missed out on national selection for the trip to Europe after injury curtailed his season.

Among the other major awards, Western Province boss Allister Coetzee was chosen as coach of the year, lock Andries Bekker was named the Super 14 player of the year, Bjorn Basson was voted Currie Cup player of the year and the Bulls were selected as team of the year.

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