'We Don't Expect To Lose': Rory Best Knows Ireland Will Not Fear South Africa

By Colman Stanley

Ireland's most successful ever captain, Rory Best, sat down with Balls, in association with Arachas, to discuss all things Irish rugby, including a look ahead to Ireland vs South Africa and the recent criticism of Johnny Sexton after his behaviour during Leinster vs the Sharks.

A Look Ahead To The Autumn Internationals

While Ireland head into the November fixtures as the no. 1 team in the world rankings, with South Africa third, many would have the Springboks - the reigning World Cup champions - as the unofficial best team.

However, since Ireland's 17-12 in against South Africa in 2004, their home record against the world champions has been stellar, with five wins from seven.

11 November 2017; Andrew Conway of Ireland, left, celebrates with Jonathan Sexton of Ireland after scoring his side's first try during the Guinness Series International match between Ireland and South Africa at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Given the Irish team's former hoodoos against the French and the All Blacks, and their current one involving quarter-finals, players know all too well the importance of head-to-head records and the role it plays in a team's mindset.

"I think it gives you confidence when you beat a team," began Rory Best. "The easiest example to look to is the All Blacks. So after 108 years of attempting to beat them. Especially in the summer you could see that that team went there and thought that we don’t expect to lose.

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"I think that’s the case with South Africa, I think we’ve, when we play them we understand how good they are, we understand what they do and the style of rugby they like to play.

But as an Irish team they will fully expect, especially at home, to win. And that comes from so many of this team having played against the Springboks over the years and having won, none more so than the captain on the day.

Could Ireland Be Bulled By South Africa ?

25 June 2016; Keith Earls of Ireland is tackled by JP Pietersen, left, Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit of South Africa during the Castle Lager Incoming Series 3rd Test between South Africa and Ireland at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The last year of Irish rugby has been the most positive and celebrated since 2018, with Farrell's new-look style bursting into working order against Japan in 2021, and followed up with a victory against the All Blacks and a series win in New Zealand.

In between that was a Six Nations, which again brought to the fore what would be considered an Achilles heel of sorts for this Irish team. That being big, mean, and aggressive packs.

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It denied Ireland a Grand Slam after being beaten by France, where they were largely dominated in the first-half at the Stade de France, saved only by a miraculous Mack Hansen score. And despite the scoreline saying they beat the English, Ireland struggled against 14 men and a team that was in a major transition phase.

Having bullied a mean England team in the 2019 World Cup final, South Africa have a final-boss feel to them, but Rory Best believes that - with their personnel and recent form - Ireland have turned a corner in this regard, and are now better equipped at dealing with such sides.

"I think they have the quality to do that. You look at whatever front-row they put out, presuming Porter and Furlong are prop, and either hooker.

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And then when you’re looking at guys like Caelan Doris and the way they play, they shouldn’t be afraid of a powerful pack because these are powerful guys who are smart, smart rugby players.

"So I think this is one of those games that you look forward to for a long time, and since these fixtures and since Ireland’s form through last year and into the summer, this is the one that everyone in Ireland wants to see because it’s going to be a massive barometer to where this team is."

On The Aggressive Captaincy Of Johnny Sexton

8 October 2022; Jonathan Sexton of Leinster tussles with Rohan Janse Van Rensburg of Cell C Sharks during the United Rugby Championship match between Leinster and Cell C Sharks at RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

As a captain and a man who played many a test with Johnny Sexton as one of his lieutenants, Best would not criticise the Leinster outhalf for what many believed to be unnecessary and insolent behaviour towards referee Craig Evans during Leinster vs the Sharks last Saturday.

I think that Johnny is a competitive guy. But I think that the biggest thing you have to understand with Johnny is that he actually cares a lot about the players, the players performance, the player’s welfare.

"He understands what it’s like to be on the receiving end of bits of play that can compromise that a little bit. Yes look he certainly put a bit of pressure on the referee but ultimately he put it on for the safety of the game.

"Johnny is a captain. Johnny never captained me personally but he was certainly a massive leader in all the teams I would have played in with or captained with Johnny playing."

Sexton came in for droves of heat from South African rugby enthusiasts last weekend, and his perceived petulance towards referees will once again be a topic of much debate heading into the first game in five years between Ireland and South Africa.

SEE ALSO: Dylan Hartley Shares Worrying 2011 Heineken Cup Final Story

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