Munster hooker Niall Scannell has happy memories of his only other trip to South Africa when he captained Ireland to a stunning victory over the Baby Boks in the opening match of the 2012 Junior World Cup.
Scannell led a team which included JJ Hanrahan, Chris Farrell, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, and Tadhg Beirne to a 23-19 victory over the hosts in Stellenbosch.
“2012 was the last time I was out here. We beat the hosts South Africa but then lost to England. It was my first proper tour for rugby and I really enjoyed it.
“This trip is a first tour for some of our younger players and that’s important for them — it’s a part of rugby and something to be enjoyed because it’s a great tradition in rugby,” said Scannell.
He hopes to celebrate his 26th birthday on Sunday on the back of a win over the Southern Kings in George tomorrow evening in the opening game of their two-match tour to South Africa.
The match will take place in CJ Stander’s hometown and while the players are delighted for him to have such an occasion, they haven’t being making it easy for the Irish international.
“It’s a big occasion for CJ going back to his hometown. He’s probably trying to downplay it in the group but we’re all telling him it’s the Lord Mayor coming back to George to play!
“But it is brilliant for a guy to go so far from home to make a name for himself. He probably didn’t think he’d get a chance to come back and have this occasion. It’s a huge motivation for him but we can all take a bit of inspiration from that. We are all looking forward to it,” added Scannell, who won the first of his seven Irish caps a year ago against Italy.
He said they have put their dramatic Champions Cup win over Toulon behind them and are now focused on these two games before turning their attention to Racing 92 in Bordeaux.
“There are a lot of logistics involved but credit to the management they planned for all of that and had all of it well sorted logistically.
“It was great to get the win the last day but now we must focus on the two matches here in South Africa. They are so important for the (PRO14) league so it’s crucial we do not take our eye off that.
“It can be hard to balance things on two fronts but I think the management will look after the semi-final stuff for Bordeaux in the background and we can just concentrate day to day out here.
“If you don’t do that you can get caught off guard and we can’t afford to do that because we need the wins out here.
“It probably is a help that we are away between now and the build-up to the semi-final. We are out of the bubble so it probably is better we are over here and we can enjoy it as a squad.
“We know they have performed well recently, especially against the Dragons. They are at home and they will have a big crowd in George but these are the things we have to deal with.
“Sometimes you can get caught off guard in the heat. This season we played Castres and it was about 25 degrees and we weren’t ready. You can get really panicked about your hydration and things like that but coming out here we have known about it and we have had good preparation.
“This will also help us as we prepare for Bordeaux in a couple weeks.”
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