There cannot have been too many instances of a side beating South Africa and having mixed feelings about the experience, but Ireland’s scrummaging think tank remain in two minds about the 29-15 victory.
Both scrum coach Greg Feek and tighthead prop Mike Ross yesterday used the word “bittersweet” to describe their response to delivering a hard-fought win against the number two Test side in the world at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday and their emotions are rooted in a disappointing day against a mighty Springboks pack.
“Last week’s victory, there is a lot of euphoria about it but there was a real bittersweet feeling in the changing-room, particularly from numbers one to eight and the guys that replaced them,” Feek said.
“We thought we could have gone better, particularly I emphasise a lot of discipline, things like not giving easy outs like collapsing or pushing. Maybe we didn’t focus on the job enough. So this week we want to make sure we get those things right because otherwise we’ll get stung again against Georgia.”
Ross was equally divided, adding: “If you lose and the set-piece has done well, I would probably sleep a little bit better. When we win and the set-piece hasn’t gone the way we need it to, then there is self-incrimination going on. You have to do your bit.
“If you feel you have personally had a good game, it makes it that bit easier to sleep. Obviously, if you win (as well), it makes that much better.
“Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t too happy after the game even though we had won. It was bittersweet. Better than if we’d lost.”
This Sunday’s opponents Georgia may be a tier-two nation but they pack a set-piece punch to rival anybody in world rugby and both Feek and Ross said they needed to put some issues right at scrum-time after last week’s performance.
“They got two balls against the head, so I can’t really argue too much about that one,” Ross said.
“There was one ball lost for a penalty. I would be pretty annoyed at how fast that one went around. That’s what happens.”
With new scrum laws over the past couple of seasons supposed to have lessened the collisions between opposing forwards at the engagement, the South African emphasis on the hit was a reminder that it had not completely disappeared.
“It’s something we’re trying to get clarity on,” Feek said. “They’ve given us certain messages around that and we’re trying to work together, and it’s something that worked well in the Six Nations and even on the Argentinian tour there wasn’t too much of a hit. But when there is it does change things a little bit.
“It’s not an excuse. That’s the reality. That’s how it was at the weekend but we got caught badly a couple of times and embarrassed as well, so we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“The key thing is we’ve got to win this Test match, and we’ve got a forward pack who has a lot of pride in what we do up front, and we’ve got to keep working. Like I said last season and earlier this year we did really well, and we don’t want to lose that either.
“A few of the boys were feeling a little bit ‘yeah, we won, but...’ We want to get the feeling back of being able to enjoy the victory, and that’s something that Joe has probably created among the group. We won, and we won well, but what have we got next? This is where we can still keep growing and it’s becoming a regular theme in the group too.
“That’s not just from management but the players themselves. They’re really leading that.”
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