HomeSportsPreview: South Africa vs. Ireland - prediction, team news, lineups

Preview: South Africa vs. Ireland – prediction, team news, lineups

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Sports Mole previews Saturday’s friendly clash between South Africa and Ireland, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The 2024 Test season kicks off with a blockbuster encounter featuring the two highest-ranked sides in the world, South Africa and Ireland, who will lock horns at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

South Africa overtook the Shamrocks for top-spot after their World Cup triumph last year, but according to World Rugby permutations, Ireland could move back to the summit if they defeat the Springboks by more than 15 points this weekend.


Match preview

© Reuters

For their first Test match at home since winning the Rugby World Cup, the Springboks will opt against wearing their traditional Green and Gold jersey. Instead, the side is set to wear the white and blue kit which they sported during the Rugby World Cup pool stage match against Ireland last year.

It is always a treat when the back-to-back world champions face the back-to-back Six Nations winners, and South Africa will be out for revenge here having lost only to this opponent en route to their fourth World Cup title.

Indeed, for all their good work, the one hurdle they have struggled to overcome in recent times has been the one posed by Ireland, who also beat the Boks 19-16 in Dublin in 2022 and won the last three meetings between the sides.

The most recent South African team to defeat Ireland was Allister Coetzee‘s squad, who secured a 19-13 victory in Port Elizabeth in 2016, which was also the last time these two rugby powerhouses met on South African soil.

Fielding 12 players who started the 2023 World Cup final, Rassie Erasmus has selected a robust and seasoned lineup for the first of their two Tests against Ireland, and the world champions will look to use the high altitude conditions in Pretoria to take a first-match lead in this two-Test series.

Ireland's Andrew Porter celebrates scoring their second try on March 16, 2024© Reuters

While South Africa enter this match looking to improve on their performance in the last bout between these sides, the Irish will undoubtedly be looking to make a statement after the disappointment of once again falling short at a World Cup.

Adding fuel to the flame in this match is the fact that these two genuinely dislike each other, which was a sentiment that Ireland and Munster wing Simon Zebo reiterated in a recent interview with the media in the lead-up to this encounter.

South Africa’s influential lock Eben Etzebeth, and their dynamic centre Damian de Allende, contributed to the heated discussion in a separate interview, with Etzebeth suggesting that Ireland’s players displayed arrogance following their World Cup victory, while De Allende described the upcoming meeting between the sides as “almost like a war.”

Much of the bad blood stems back to 2004 when Ronan O’Gara slid in for a decisive try in a 17-12 victory at Lansdowne Road, when the Springboks were huddled behind their try-line following the referees’ orders to then-captain John Smit to address his players about persistent breakdown infringements.

That victory marked Ireland’s first win over South Africa in 39 years and signalled a shift in the power dynamic between the sides, with Ireland going on to win seven of the next 11 Tests leading up to this match.

South Africa form (all competitions):

Ireland form (all competitions):


Team News

South Africa's Handre Pollard scores a conversion kick on October 21, 2023© Reuters

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has named an experienced squad for this match, featuring 20 Rugby World Cup winners, including the entire starting 15 and five players on the replacements’ bench.

In the matchday 23, the three players who did not participate in the international spectacle in France are Gerhard Steenekamp (prop), Salmaan Moerat (lock), and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (utility back), who are set to feature in six-two bench split.

Ireland have named uncapped Leinster centre Jamie Osborne at full-back for this weekend’s showdown and he will be joined in the back three by club teammate James Lowe and Munster winger Calvin Nash.

Peter O’Mahony will captain the side from the pack with Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris forming a familiar back row, while Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong make up the frontline trio.

South Africa starting lineup: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu

Ireland starting lineup: 15 Jamie Osborne, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ciaran Frawley, 23 Garry Ringrose


SM words green background

We say: South Africa 21-17 Ireland

Many agree that poor goal-kicking cost the Springboks when these sides met at the World Cup, but they have seemingly addressed that issue by bringing back Handre Pollard, who was a crucial figure for South Africa in the semis and final of that competition.

Rest assured this will be a hard-fought battle, but the Boks at altitude and with a sold-out Loftus behind them, could find enough to finally overcome their old foe, even if only by a slender margin.

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