South Africa scrum coach Matt Proudfoot continued where his boss left off by heaping praise on Ireland yesterday.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee spent much of Monday’s press conference talking up Joe Schmidt’s men and his assistant was operating from a similar playbook when facing the media 24 hours later in Dublin.
South Africa meet Ireland on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium in the first of four Test matches that also include France in Paris, Italy in Padova and Wales in Cardiff.
“They are very intelligent in terms of what they present to you,” said Proudfoot of Ireland. “With them, it’s just not about brute force amongst their forwards, but they always present you with different challenges.”
“We have to be alert and sharp in how we confront them, so therefore you have to be well-prepared in all aspects. We have made good strides as a pack this year and, on Saturday, we will be looking to continue to evolve as a pack.
“Ireland are a well-coached team and have a system that works for them and for Irish rugby. They are well-conditioned and in great shape to challenge us.
Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira is set to feature at the weekend, having missed the Springboks’ last Test outing, against the All Blacks in Cape Town, where the New Zealanders won an epic by one point.
Proudfoot said: “Beast is playing the best rugby of his career and he is improving with each match that he plays. He and Steven Kitshoff are forming a great combination as looseheads; they complement and back each other in a fantastic way, with each giving us a very good performance whenever they get onto the field. His leadership qualities are really good and, internally in the pack, he brings a sense of calmness and focus, whilst he and Siya Kolisi are good lieutenants to the captain, Eben Etzebeth.”
Meanwhile, Coetzee says managing New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe will be key in Saturday’s clash.
“The referee interpretation is going to be crucial for us,” said Coetzee. “In any Test, you lose momentum when you give away simple penalties that give the opposition team an opportunity for a driving maul or to kick it out... we’ve got to make sure that the discipline is right up there.”
In terms of where the Boks had improved on last year’s trip to the northern hemisphere, Coetzee was clear.
“Last year, this time, I was personally worried about our conditioning,” he said. “I’ve got no fears at all this time. I think we understand that you can’t come here with a southern hemisphere mind-set and try and play in the northern hemisphere. We have to adapt.
“The physicality is a given, but we’ve got to be smart within our detail this week. They have good running lines and we’ll have to make sure that, defensively, we can stop them from all angles of the field.”
Elsewhere, New Zealand have called up Highlanders loose forward Luke Whitelock to replace Jerome Kaino, who will play no further part on their month-long European tour, because of a knee injury, said the New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday.
Kaino sustained a posterior cruciate ligament injury while playing against Whitelock for the All Blacks in their 31-22 victory over the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Kaino, who has 81 caps for New Zealand, had won a recall to the side after missing the Rugby Championship competition. He had been dropped by coach Steve Hansen at the end of the drawn British and Irish Lions series.
Whitelock, 26, joins a 43-man squad, which includes his brother Sam. Luke Whitelock has a single cap for New Zealand, won against Japan in Tokyo four years ago.
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