Like sitting down in front of a horror movie, Iain Henderson knew the review into last Saturday’s Test defeat at Ellis Park would deliver some nasty moments. The trick is knowing how to move on from them.
That is the task Ireland face if they are to bounce back from that calamitous 32-26 loss to South Africa and succeed in Port Elizabeth this weekend to make history with a first series win in the Springboks’ backyard.
There was no chance of whitewashing the second Test from the memory.
That is not what reviews are about and Monday’s look back in anger to a game Ireland had led 26-10 with 20 minutes to go made for particularly trying viewing for all concerned, not just those whose missed tackles led to the late tries which levelled the series.
Nor the bench which failed to match the impact and intensity South Africa’s replacements brought with such devastating effect.
As far as Henderson is concerned, no-one could hold their hand up and say they had not made mistakes.
“I think a lot of the lapses in concentration weren’t necessarily from the guys who came off the bench,” Henderson said.
“I thought a lot of the guys who came off the bench did a sterling job when they came on.
“Unfortunately, I think you could put it down to, maybe, three individual lapses. Three individual pinpoint lapses, where they managed to take their opportunity very well.
“In the first game, we didn’t give them the opportunities to get their claws into us but then they took their opportunities in the second Test and fair play to them.
“They managed to convert those into points which we did well in the first Test not to let them do.
“I think we all knew that when we came off you could have asked everyone what they did wrong and everyone would have told you exactly the same thing. We knew what we’d done wrong.
“We expected that, we knew when we shortened our line they’d try and play it wide and get to the edges, which they did, and then they got... we knew we needed to work hard and step up to that and there were a few lapses in that second half where we got sucked in.
“They played wide ball and got good space on the edges.
“I don’t think they did anything outrageously special that we can’t cope with.
“I don’t think we need to go back to the drawing board and try reinvent everything we do.
“I just think we need to be more dialled in and make sure that we stay lapse-free for 80 minutes.
“There’s so many different things you can go back to but everyone has their little things they know they have to go back to and rectify or realise where they’ve gone wrong and we can rectify them for the third Test.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t go out there and do a job again and do it just as well, if not better than in the first Test.”
Henderson and company left that review room determined to make amends having taken the criticism from head coach Schmidt firmly on the chin.
“With Joe, it’s all constructive criticism. You do take it. If you go through a Test match or Test series and don’t get any criticism, you’d be doing very well, so you would.
“Everyone knows Joe’s big thing is his detail and everything revolves around players executing what they are there to execute to their utmost and he’s only ever criticising us to make us better and make the squad a better squad.
“When people do get harsh criticism, we know we bounce back from that and it does make us stronger.”
Henderson, who stood out as a lock in the first Test and equally as blindside flanker in the second, knows the team’s performance will have to be stronger if they are to leave South Africa with that series victory they crave.
“We realise we’re massively fortunate to get a second bite at this apple. However, we’ll look at getting the game right first before we look to considering the win before we’ve even played.
“We definitely (need to be) better than last week, for the full 80 min utes, and I’m sure they’ll be looking to make up for the first week too.They’ll definitely be getting better. I don’t think they’ll slack off.
“They’ll look at it that they have their foot on our throats and they’ll look to up the ante with us, but I think we’ll be prepared for it.
“Within the backline and even the pack, with the carriers that we have, we can get decent go-forward ball then I think our breakdown work, we slackened off in the second-half a bit last week, but we’re looking to up the ante and we’re looking to be nailed on in all of those individual specific scenarios.
“We have the players who have the flair to break the line and get good, go-forward ball.”
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