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‘I’d rather have two World Cups and a Lions series and take the losses’ – Rassie Erasmus ups the ante ahead of Ireland clash


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While Andy Farrell’s men continue to prepare quietly down the road in Johannesburg, the world champions are content to hype the clash of the world’s number one and two teams ahead of the Pretoria opener.

The build-up has been marked by a bullish approach from the locals, with Eben Etzebeth, Cheslin Kolbe and Damian de Allende all voicing their perceived grievances against the Irish side who beat them in the pool match at last year’s World Cup.

The Springboks bounced back to retain their title as Ireland suffered an all too familiar quarter-final exit, yet they still appear to be going into this one with a chip on their shoulder having not beaten Ireland in their last three attempts.

South Africa tour daily: July 1st

Not that the defeats appeared to bother the head coach.

“From their side, they probably have unfinished business to try and get number one,” he said when asked if the Boks have unfinished business with Ireland.

“We don’t talk like that.

“We analyse players, we see how they perform in the URC and European Cup, then pick our team from players we think can do the job for us.

“We train really hard. We try to stay in our reality but our reality is we’re playing at home against a team that has beaten us. All the games were really close, they deserved all of those.

“But it’s never ‘we’ve got a score to settle.’ I’d rather take a World Cup, two World Cups and a British & Irish Lions series, and take the three loses. But we never go out to lose, we definitely didn’t try to lose.”

Erasmus was in flying form after naming an experienced side with Kwagga Smith at No 8, joking that Leinster coach Jacques Nienaber has been keeping him in the loop about the Leinster contingent in the squad when it was put to him that the Irish players might benefit from his influence.

“Yeah, definitely they will, no doubt, but Jacques phones me every night and tells everything about Ireland! No, I’m joking,” he smiled.

“Look, rugby is a professional game.

“Certainly, he will implement things there what worked for us here.

“Some of them you can clearly see. Some of them are working, some of them are not working because players of countries and cultures are different, and coaches are different.

“When you’re in different counties and cultures, and I know from Munster, you didn’t always read body language and when you said something you’re not quite sure this guy gets what I’m trying to say.

“RG Snyman played for Munster. He’s now a Leinster boy. So nowadays what you see on television and if you follow teams on Twitter, they post all their drills on Twitter and you can see basically who is starting and who is wearing the big, those kind of things.

“One thing I can promise you, I will never put Jacques in a position where the people he is working with and the team he loves, which is Leinster currently, thinking he would in any way helps us.

“But I also trust him not to tell them the name of moves and calls and those kind of things. I’m not worried about that.”

The biggest change since the last time the two teams met is the absence of Johnny Sexton from the Irish ranks.

“The ref has got it much easier now,” Erasmus said of the Irish team after the former Ireland captain. “No, I’m joking.

“I always said when we played against Johnny, he so frustrated us but hell, it would be nice to be in his team. I guess I wanna say we have respect for him and how he plays, how he could command games and how he could command respect.

“But this young fly-half (Jack Crowley) is not scared. He plays it on the gainline, he goes for the cross kick, he doesn’t shy away from tackling.

“I’m not sure if they will put the small one from Munster… (Craig) Casey or Murr (Conor Murray) with him. Maybe Casey because Casey and him play together. At that age, you don’t feel the pressure of Test match rugby so much until you actually realise what you’re part of. Sometimes that’s good.

“What has changed in their game? I think they even defend a little bit Jacques Nienaber-style, a little bit. They are hard off the line, without a doubt.”

The rivalry between these teams is real.

“It’s the same as when we play the All Blacks and when we play big teams,” he said.

“I think the rivalry is more from their (the Irish) media side than from ours.

“I think sometimes maybe they don’t 100% understand the South African sense of humour, why we find something funny, and sometimes it’s quoted out of context.

“Take Simon Zebo as an example, the guy phoned me and says it was on a podcast, we had a few beers, made the crack (about Erasmus hating Ireland) and he said that. Just to take the last part of what I said – ‘let’s spice it up’ – that’s also South African humour saying it back to Simon.

“So yes, they’re number two in the world, they’ve beaten us last time. We don’t see ourselves as underdogs, I don’t think they see themselves as underdogs and I think we’ll see two teams on Saturday who are really desperate to perform for their countries.”

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