Ireland prepare for South African tour

Limerick’s Jerry Flannery will be hoping to oversee Ireland’s downfall in his role as South Africa’s defence coach. Photo: Ramsey Cardy.

IT HAS been such a long season that one could be forgiven for adopting only a passing interest in Ireland’s first summer tour against South Africa.

On the eve of their departure to Johannasburg, coach Mike Catt was painting a different picture, pointing out that this Ireland side had beaten the Boks in their last three meetings and there were high hopes in the camp that they can once more achieve greatness.

The 35-man squad named by Andy Farrell consists of 18 Leinster players, seven from Munster, six from Ulster, and four from Connacht.

Three of those, Sam Prendergast, Jamie Osborne, and Cormac Izuchukwu will be hoping to win their first caps before the party returns to Dublin in mid-July.

South Africa had a nifty workout in Twickenham last weekend, beating Wales 41-13, but they were slow to click into full throttle, with only a single point lead, 14-13, at the break.

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The world champions’ defence coach, Limerick’s Jerry Flannery, must have been happy enough with his boys who had a clean sheet in the second half and it will be interesting to see how the Irish perform against what will be a very strong home pack.

Losing Jamison Gibson-Park (hamstring injury) and Jack Conan (personal reasons) will not help the Irish.

The named squad consists of a few players who have yet to prove themselves at the highest level and there is little doubt that those who have slogged their way through a gruelling URC and Investec season would prefer to be putting their legs up over the next two weekends.

Being territorial, local stars Calvin Nash, Conor Murray, and Craig Casey are sure to shine, while captain Peter O’Mahony spoke of his pride after being asked to lead Ireland out in Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, against a country that provides one of the toughest challenges in world rugby.