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Springbok stars taking aim at 'Irish arrogance' ahead of highly anticipated test series

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Wednesday Jun 12, 2024

The World Champions vs the Six Nations Champions, world number one vs world number two in rugby terms it simply does not get bigger than this.

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Throw into the mix some good old fashion bad blood between two sides have faced each other recently and you have the perfect recipe for a cracking test series.

Now, just a few weeks away from Ireland’s highly anticipated dive down to the Southern Hemisphere to face the Springboks, several senior Bok players have taken aim at their visitors.

Whilst the Springboks of course won the World Cup in 2023, Ireland got the bragging rights between the two sides with a win in the pool stages in what was one of the most physical clashes in the tournament’s history.

Ireland would come up agonisingly short against the All Blacks at the quarterfinal stage, while the Boks beat the Kiwis in the final. It has not stopped the South African players from hyping up the upcoming series against a side whom they have not beaten since 2016.

The last time the Boks did beat Ireland it was in a 2 – 1 series victory over the men in green as they recovered from losing the opening test to narrowly win the next two fixtures.

In fact it was a loss to Ireland in Dublin in 2017 which reportedly brought head coach Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber back to South African Rugby.

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Leading Irish provincial side Munster at the time, the duo were in attendance as the Boks were handed a record 38 – 3 defeat at the Aviva Stadium.

This loss stung the duo who as passionate South Africans felt they could make the difference to the once proud Springbok brand.

Like two messiahs emerging from the Irish spring, the duo would indeed head back to South Africa, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now facing Ireland as back-to-back World Champions, the Boks are clearly desperate to scratch the one itch they have been unable to do under Erasmus, and that is to beat Ireland.

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Kicking off the festivities was Bok icon Eben Etzebeth, who claimed that Ireland had been ‘disrespectful’ following their win at the Stade de France.

Featuring on the popular RugbyPass podcast ‘The Rugby Pod’, Etzebeth told former Scotland captain Jim Hamilton that he felt Ireland believed they had already made the final following the match.

“When I said that after the game, the thing was obviously you shake the guy’s hands, and probably 12 out of the 23 when I shook the hands told me, ‘See you guys in the final’.

“Because the way the logs worked out, we were going to play France, and they were going to play New Zealand, and my immediate thought was, ‘Are these guys seriously not even thinking about the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-final playing against them?’

“So that remark they made, ‘See you guys in the final’, I was just like these guys are making a big mistake to look past probably one of the most dominant teams, or probably the most dominant team in the last 20 to 30 years of Test rugby.

“I was just like, ‘Surely they can’t!’ I mean, we would never say that because we knew we had the host nation, and we knew we had to pitch up to beat France in their backyard. Yeah, it just felt like they were just so, so confident saying things like that, ‘See you in the final,’ when you knew you had got the mighty All Blacks coming in a World Cup quarter-final.

“It’s good to be confident, but you can never be arrogant in this game because that’s the thing about rugby, you can have the best season, and you can have one slip-up or one missed tackle, and a guy puts you on your arse. That is the beauty of this game – you are never on top forever.”

In response, Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey agreed with former England flyhalf Andy Goode, who said that Etzebeth’s claims were ‘Bulls***” ‘ as the Ulster powerhouse said,” It seems like a crazy thing that he was counting them, for one. That seemed a bit wild he was counting them out. I haven’t spoken to the lads about it.

“There’s maybe only Iain Henderson was playing from an Ulster perspective but I assume they were just saying it in a way trying to be humble in the victory kind of thing.

“Like, you guys will still be there because obviously they were a classy team, they ended up winning so they got the last laugh. But I don’t think there was any malice in it or arrogance on the guys’ behalf if they did say it.”

A month after his teammate’s remarks had finished their circulation of the rugby media, Bok centre Damian De Allende would be the next player to take a pop at Irish Rugby. This time, it would be Ireland’s head coach, Andy Farrell, and Irish people who would be on the firing line as he talked to Hamilton, this time on his ‘Big Jim Show’ podcast.

“It’s hard to say because I think Andy Farrell is English, so I don’t know if he knows much about Ireland and its history, what has happened in its past, and things like that.

“Because Rassie is South African and because he loves South Africa so much and he has played for the Springboks and it means so much to him, he knows how to make us tick as South Africans, and he knows how to make South Africans tick.”

“So I don’t know if they have an emotional drive. The Irish don’t strike me as people who are emotional, but I think South Africans are very emotional.

“I think because a lot of us have tough pasts, and I am not saying I don’t think the Irish guys have tough pasts, but there is a lot of us that came up from absolutely nothing, and a lot of us appreciate that so much and appreciate what we have now.

“But there will always be that emotional drive that pushes us over the line or gets us going just because we always think about what we didn’t have and what we have now. If that makes sense.”

As the saying goes, in for a penny, in for a pound. The Boks were not done yet, as winger Cheslin Kolbe has become the latest high-profile player to let his feelings about the Irish team be known.

Speaking to local media, Kolbe felt irked that many had ‘bigged’ up Ireland’s chances at the World Cup, only to be disappointed when they were knocked out.

Discussing the hype surrounding the upcoming series and the potential for revenge, Kolbe offered an interesting insight into what is likely being discussed in camp.

“There’s been a lot of hype and a lot of talk about it.” He said this before delving into the two sides at the last meeting.

“Obviously, we badly wanted to beat them in the pool match at the World Cup, but they had the better of us on the day.

“So [there’s] a lot of excitement about Ireland in July, but we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got Wales at Twickenham, and then the focus will shift to Ireland.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Ireland deserving to win the World Cup. We’ll see in July.”

With so much talk being thrown around, the series between the top two ranked sides in the world feels to already be reaching fever pitch before a ball has even been kicked.

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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