‘Skrela’ not making JP tremble

Ask a Kiwi, Aussie or Springbok to talk about Ireland and the response is guaranteed to mention Brian O’Driscoll and/or that hoary old nod to passion. Beyond that, the well of platitudes tends to dry up.

‘Skrela’ not making JP tremble

It’s a default position utilised to hide the unpalatable fact the Irish just don’t map on southern hemisphere radars the other 364 days of the year and JP Pietersen demonstrated as much yesterday with an unfortunate slip of the tongue.

The Springbok wing was fielding what should have been a straightforward query about the qualities of their hosts’ back three when he offered up the names of Tommy Bowe and … wait for it … David Skrela in reply.

“He plays for Ulster,” he added, presumably as the image of Andrew Trimble’s tousled blond hair was running through his mind rather than the much darker mane of the ASM Clermont Auvergne and France outhalf.

“David Skrela?” an amused and admirably unperturbed Trimble said later in the day. “I’m not going to say ‘oh, they don’t have any respect because they don’t know my name’.

“I’m not in charge of doing the team talk so I’m not going to talk about that. What can you do except go out and play as well as you can and hopefully they will remember your name.”

In fairness to Pietersen and the rest of the Boks, it can’t be easy trying to keep tabs on their prospective opponents given the revolving door of personnel tramping in and out of Carton House this last fortnight.

“Personally, I don’t think it is going to make much of a difference,” said backs coach Ricardo Loubscher of the Irish injury crisis. “At this level, any guy who makes the step up you have to be even more concerned about because they normally bring the hunger and the willingness to succeed. So, from a coaching point of view, we feel it is a well-balanced side with an excellent coaching staff that have been together for a long time.”

Loubscher added South Africa’s focus this month will be mostly internal, however, which is hardly surprising given their difficulties in the recent Rugby Championship and their own list of absentees on this European tour.

In that, Pietersen’s presence in Dublin strikes a reassuring conflicting note. The Sharks wing missed the entire Rugby Championship with injury but returned to Super Rugby in the sort of sparkling form he had already shown for the Boks in June.

By his own reckoning, he hasn’t played this well since 2007 when he won a World Cup, but is a more rounded player now, one that left criticisms of inconsistency behind him and added a working brief as an outside centre to his growing brief.

With Bryan Habana one of those unable to travel, the 26-year old wing’s presence is all the more welcome as, his exceptional form with the Sharks aside, he is the fourth-most capped Springbok available to Heyneke Meyer this next few weeks.

“Obviously it is a big setback with Bryan not being here, but it gives opportunities to other guys,” said Loubscher.

“It is nice to have JP back and the rest of the guys, whoever will play at the weekend, will make the step up so I am very confident about it.”

Just one of Pietersen’s 45 caps to date have been earned against Ireland and it is instructive to compare the two sides’ current well-being with that fixture three years ago when Ireland won 15-10 at Croke Park.

Kidney’s men started with nine Lions as the Six Nations Grand Slam champions faced the world Cup and Tri-Nations kingpins in a game that was pockmarked with brutal hits and some sumptuous counter-attacking.

Hopes of a repeat have been tempered by the casualty lists emanating from both camps and that was before the visitors changed their media arrangements yesterday to accommodate an extra round of scrummaging and kicking sessions in the morning.

If that proves significant, Pietersen and the rest of the wings on duty may have little better to do than pull up a chair and get properly acquainted come Saturday evening in Ballsbridge.

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