One of the biggest matches of the year takes place at Croke Park tomorrow as the much anticipated meeting between the champions of the north and the champions of the south will play out in front of 82 000 fans.
Grand Slam winners Ireland will be looking to claim the scalp of Tri Nations winners South Africa in a match that for some, will determine who gets the bragging rights for the next few months.
Both sides have had fantastic years, and whatever the result, that cant take away from all that’s been achieved for each team throughout the year.
Despite the loss to France recently, South Africa are still considered the best team in the world by many, so Ireland are looking to change perceptions as many of their senior players aim for revenge for a Lions series that they feel should have gone their way.
John Smit has said that its a pity only 82 000 could get a ticket for the match, as its bound to be a fierce encounter with plenty of niggle and hopefully some attractive rugby to go along with that. Brian ODriscoll tried to play down the hype, but the Irish media have stressed the North vs South element throughout the week.
The Springboks have brought in Jean De Villiers and BJ Botha to stabilise the backline and scrum respectively, but De Villiers, now a Munster man, will start off the bench as Wynand Olivier will run out in the first fifteen.
World Cup winning number eight Danie Rossouw has been brought in to play in that self same position, while John Smit is back at the familiar position of Hooker, beefing up a scrum thats come under much scrutiny on this tour.
The biggest talking point of the week in Ireland has been that Ronan OGara has been placed on the bench and theyre retained young flyhalf Jonny Sexton, who looked impressive throughout the season for Leinster, and then last week against Fiji.
Its possibly the biggest game of the end of year tours, but thats if youre not French or Kiwi, as those two sides meet in Marseilles for a match that will be fascinating to say the least. There probably wont be time to get a preview up for that game, but its also set to be a must watch. Between the two, Wales hosts Australia in a match that the Aussies will have to win to avoid another mauling from their local press.
15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian ODriscoll (c), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas OLeary, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul OConnell, 4 Donncha OCallaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Sean OBrien, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Ronan OGara, 22 Gordon DArcy.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Jean de Villiers.
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