No better man than Rassie Erasmus to kill you with kindness.
Few can work a room like the smiling South African boss and, while his focus lies with Friday’s meeting with Namibia in Toyota, he was more than willing to play the long game at his team’s Nagoya HQ on Wednesday and wax lyrical about an Irish side he is likely to be plotting against come the quarter-finals next month.
“Very impressed with Ireland,” he said when asked about the manner in which Joe Schmidt’s side accounted for Scotland last Sunday. “
Apart from New Zealand, Ireland were the only other team who put a full 80 minutes out there of constructive, well planned, decisive, clinical rugby. Right through to physical, tactical rugby.
“It shows in the world rankings. Everybody is laughing at the world rankings, but that team (Ireland) have been consistent over the last two years, and it looks like we will have to play them. But then again, they have to get past Japan, which is slippery, and we still have to get past Italy and two other energetic opponents.”
Don’t be minding that. Erasmus will be expecting Ireland after the pair of these are done with the pool stages. Ireland face the tougher challenge from here to there given they face the hosts in Shizuoka this Saturday but you can slap your mortgage on a heavyweight last eight clash between the Six Nations side and the Springboks at the Tokyo Stadium on October 20.
The ease with which the Boks will cruise through Pool B after their ten-point loss to New Zealand in Yokohama was emphasised by the decision to make 13 changes to the side for this next outing and to name Schalk Brits, the hooker, to start as No.8. Erasmus said this won’t be a glorified captain’s run. Believe that and you’ll believe anything.
“We always knew there are four big games in a World Cup,” said the former Munster coach. “We know we are the favourites against Namibia and Canada but that doesn’t mean those games will be natural wins. We have to prepare really hard and go through a proper week of analysis.
“But if we play to our full potential, we should win those games, and I am saying that with the utmost respect to those teams, because the gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations has definitely shrunk. You don’t get 100 points, 80 points and 70 points anymore. It’s been shown in the first week (of the tournament).
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“It’s our neighbours, so we know we will be in for physical things going on in this game, so we are respecting that. We knew in the first test against the All Blacks that there are positives and negatives in that. The positives would always have been if we won that game, the winning momentum and confidence.
“The negative, now that we lost, is losing a little bit of confidence. Now we have four big games – Italy, and then quarter-final, semi-final and final, if we do beat Italy. We have to keep on our eye on that as well and improve things while we play Canada and Namibia, to be able to compete when we got to the quarter-finals.”
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