Four days out from a series-deciding Test with the Springboks, Devin Toner has admitted the Ireland camp is still not over their painful defeat to South Africa at Ellis Park last Saturday.
Ireland blew a 19-3 half-time lead and a 26-10 advantage at the hour mark only to let the Springboks gather themselves and fight back with a stunning three-try surge in the final 20 minutes. The 32-26 defeat levelled the Test series heading into this Saturday's third and final meeting at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Second row Toner, man of the match in the historic opening-Test win at Newlands the previous week and a first half try scorer in Johannesburg , said: “I wouldn’t say we’re over it. We’re still going through the footage, we’re still looking at the video, we’re still kind of hurting over it but I think training went alright today.
“I think we’re very much still in recovery mode, I think there’s still a lot of sore bodies out there so I think we’re going to try and build our way into the week and try and get back into for Thursday and Friday and try and peak for Saturday because we know that we should have won that.
“We were pretty much ahead and it was just the last 15-20 minutes that we let it slip so we’re not over it to be honest, no.”
Toner's words followed Ireland's first full training session since Saturday's defeat and usually a point in the training week when thoughts turn to the next game. The tourists still have a shot at making more history on this tour, adding a first victory on South African soil with an equally significant series victory.
Yet scrum coach Greg Feek said it would not be difficult for the squad to stay on task as they aim wrestle back momentum from the Springboks.
“We’re always very task focused so we try to make sure our trainings match how we’re trying to play one week at a time and that’s no different this week,” Feek said. “Obviously, we’re a little bit disappointed from the weekend but we also know it’s a tough ask to come over here and win one Test match so it’s certainly our focus for this week.”
South Africa, who have lost frontline forwards Duane Vermeulen and Lood de Jager for the series finale as well as Pat Lambie, starting fly-half from the first Test, on Tuesday morning were forced to rule out another casualty, loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane, back-up to number one Tendai Mtawarira. Nyakane suffered an ankle injury at Ellis Park with a replacement expected to be named later in the day.
Warren Whiteley, Vermeulen's replacement in the back row last Saturday who scored one of the late tries, is also a doubt with a shoulder issue but regardless of South Africa's personnel, lock Toner is preparing to face a Boks side that will start this weekend's Test in the same manner they finished the last one.
“We’re expecting them to play as they played in that last quarter. I think they’ll have a lot of confidence from those last 20 minutes. We can’t let them do that again, we can’t let them run at us, we can’t let them get over the gainline as easily as we did. So, we’re going to have to take confidence from our performance in the first game and the first half, to know what we can do it, to know what we can negate their threats.”
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