John_s_version_1The teams for the opening test of Ireland’s South African tour were announced earlier this afternoon, and it’s a selection that has sparked a lot of interest – probably for the right reasons. 

Joe Schmid’s hand has been somewhat forced, through late withdrawals and probable exhaustion of some of the Leinster and Connacht contingent, but, either by misfortune or design, he has come up with the sort of team that we’ve been hoping to see for about 18 months now. 

I’m not just saying that because of the larger than normal Ulster head count, Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Paddy Jackson, Iain Henderson and Rory Best all starting and Craig Gilroy on the bench, as I would have been equally pleased to see a few of the Connacht names in there. No, I’m pleased because we are actually seeing something different from Ireland in the International arena and against quality opposition to boot. 

Having said that, it’s a South African side in transition. But, everything is relevant and speaking to our friend Rob Otto over on Sharksworld the consensus appears to be that, “[It’s a] decent enough selection, but we’ll be unsettled.”

Somewhat worryingly though Rob adds, “Tight five is solid, hell of a unit. Actually, most of the back row is as well, just not too sure about blind-side but then again, there is enough grunt elsewhere in the pack.”

This was not what I was wanting to hear as I suspect our props may run out of puff early doors and it could be a slippery downward spiral from then on! 

On the other hand, if Ireland do get some sort of ball, they do have a back line that can cause a lot of damage and will likely threaten the South African midfield. Unfortunately, it’s not so hot off the back foot and as I write this I’m getting worrying flashes of a big scoreline for the hosts! 

Before we get to our prediction though, it would be remiss of me not to point out some intriguing match ups between Ulster and Sharks players with Willie Le Roux v Jarred Payne and Pat Lambie v Paddy Jackson perhaps the pick of the bunch. However, the head to head I’m looking forward to the most is the continuation of a battle between two young stags, Stormers’ Eben Etzebeth and Ulster’s Iain Henderson, that first took place at the 2011 Junior World Championship. Sparks, and possibly fists, will fly! 

The FRU Predicts: I suspect Ireland will take a lead into the break but will be hauled back fairly early in the second half with the Springboks recording a comfortable win. 🙁

South Africa   Ireland
Willie le Roux 15 Jared Payne
JP Pietersen 14 Andrew Trimble
Lionel Mapoe 13 Robbie Henshaw
Damian De Allende 12 Luke Marshall
Lwazi Mvovo 11 Keith Earls
Pat Lambie 10 Paddy Jackson
Faf de Klerk 9 Conor Murray
Tendai Mtawarira 1 Jack McGrath
Adriaan Strauss 2 Rory Best
Frans Malherbe 3 Mike Ross
Eben Etzebeth 4 Iain Henderson
Lood de Jager 5 Devin Toner
Francois Louw 6 CJ Stander
Siya Kolisi 7 Jordi Murphy
Duane Vermeulen 8 Jamie Heaslip
     
Bongi Mbonambi 16 Sean Cronin
Trevor Nyakane 17 Finlay Bealham
Julian Redelinghuys 18 Tadhg Furlong
Pieter-Steph du Toit 19 Ultan Dillane
Warren Whiteley 20 Rhys Ruddock
Rudy Paige 21 Kieran Marmion
Elton Jantjies 22 Ian Madigan
Jesse Kriel 23 Craig Gilroy

#SUFTUM