A potent mix of old rivalries, family ties and fervent patriotic values will make life very uncomfortable for Ireland’s three South African-born players with former Springbok Thinus Delport predicting a hostile reception on their return.
CJ Stander, Richardt Strauss and the uncapped Quinn Roux are all in Ireland’s squad of 32 despite starting their careers in their native South Africa.
Now Delport, who will be analysing Ireland’s three games for Sky Sports alongside Shane Horgan, is certain the home support will encourage the Springboks to leave their mark on their former compatriots.
“There’s a lot of fuss about the returning South Africans in CJ Stander, Quinn Roux and Richardt Strauss - those guys are back playing on home soil is going to be very emotional,” Delport said. “Those guys will have their critics in South Africa and the fact is they decided to pursue their careers elsewhere and been successful.”
Although only Stander will take part in the first Test at Newlands Stadium, Delport, who won 18 caps for South Africa, believes at some point Richardt Strauss (cousin of Boks skipper Adriaan) and Roux will have to prepare for the heat that will come from stands and on the pitch.
“There’s also a lot of pressure of Strauss’ because they’re family and it’s one-all [in games played] between the two and they can expect a bit of hostile reception.
“The guys will put a lot of pressure on them in the media and from the supporters surely on the field there’ll be some words being said,” Delport said. “A lot of these guys have history going back to schooldays when they played against each other, so it’s going to be more than just a physical challenge to them, it’s going to be the mental approach that they take.”
However, should Roux and Ulster’s Sean Reidy appear during the series then 10 of the last 20 new Ireland caps will have been awarded to players raised outside of the country. Although Delport believes that the residency rule is not being abused, he would like to see it tweaked from the current three-year naturalization period.
“Gus Pichot (World Rugby vice chairman) has clearly stated it’s one of the rules and regulations that World Rugby is going to start looking at. I feel three years is a little bit short, you can play for another country before you can even become a citizen, so it’s got to be more on a par with the immigration regulations of a country,” Delport said.
Based on the history between the sides Delport is expecting three “tasty” affairs and he expects South Africa to produce a fleeter style of play.
“Still expecting that real emotional, physical approach but realising a lot of pressure can be put on the Irish team especially in the 10 channel because of the relative lack of experience there [in Paddy Jackson],” Delport said.
“If you see how the South African franchises have played so far in Super Rugby, they’ve taken more ball in hand approach on board. I’m hoping to see some more of that over the next few tests, for me that’s the most exciting part.”
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