Jordi Murphy spent his day off diving amongst sharks but this evening at Newlands it will be a different beast occupying the Ireland flanker’s thoughts.
For all the excitement and understandable nervousness of being inside a cage submerged into a school of great white sharks off the southernmost point of Africa, facing the Springboks represents a another challenge again for Murphy as he prepares to go toe to toe with back-row powerhouses Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw and Siya Kolisi.
While the shark experience was “something else” and “pretty amazing”, Murphy was at least offered the protection of a cage to view those magnificent killing machines of the deep.
The Leinster back-rower, who starts at openside flanker in his 15th Test appearance for Ireland knows there is no such sanctuary available from his South African counterparts and he is relishing the prospect.
“Definitely the breakdown’s going to be key with the likes of Francois Louw, Vermeulen, Kolisi and those boys like (hooker and captain Adriaan) Strauss very strong at the breakdown,” Murphy said.
“They are physically bigger than us but it’s just about our workrate on the day and fronting up from the first second. We’re not going to get a chance to feel our way into the game, we’ve got to turn up as soon as the first ball is kicked and give them nothing.”
Murphy has faced his fellow openside Louw twice this season, when Leinster played Bath in their Champions Cup pool, and could not help but be impressed by the South African.
“He’s a great all-round player. He’s good with ball in hand and very strong with his tackle to release and then on to the ball. Watching him at the World Cup and then playing against him, he’s one of those players that can turn the tide in a game.
"There was a clip of South Africa-Japan where the Japanese were on their line and the ball was overthrown. Louw caught it and made a 50-metre break off it. That changed the tide a bit and South Africa scored within a few minutes of that.
“So it’s those kind of things, it’s international Test rugby. You can’t give anyone any easy outs or give anyone a break. I’m sure they won’t do that to us so we’ve got to make sure we don’t do that to them.”
Murphy’s inclusion in today’s Ireland side marks a return to Test rugby after missing the Six Nations. He had scored a try in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina last October but suffered a drop in form that saw him overlooked by Joe Schmidt when the championship came around in February.
Murphy announced his return to form in some style as he and Leinster exacted revenge on Pro12 rivals Ulster for a Ravenhill drubbing in April with a 30-18 victory over their northern neighbours at the RDS in the semi-finals, the flanker clocking up 25 tackles.
“As soon as I found out I wasn’t going to be involved I put all my focus into Leinster and hopefully if I put in some good performances I’d get a go at the next opportunity.
“I just didn’t feel very fresh, I suppose. Had a few niggly injuries and needed to get those right and then just focusing back on parts of my game which I felt like I’d let myself down in.
"So just trying to work on those, doing those extra bits outside of the training times and I feel like I’ve come around again and I’m feeling fresh.”
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