Ireland second-row Devin Toner has called on his team-mates to keep cool heads as they go in search of a historic series win over South Africa on Saturday.
Joe Schmidt’s side have already secured one piece of history on their three-match end of season tour by beating the Springboks on home soil for the first time, but despite losing the second Test in dramatic circumstances last weekend, the Leinster lock is targeting a grand finale in Port Elizabeth.
Ireland trained at the Nelson Mandela Bay University yesterday morning and reported a clean bill of health for Saturday’s game as CJ Stander returns to the squad.
It is Ireland’s 17th Test of their 2015/16 campaign but Toner wants one last effort as they look to follow the British and Irish Lions and New Zealand by winning a three-Test series over the Springboks on South African soil.
“It’s quite important to us,” he said.
“Going into that first game, it was quite important as well as we’ve never won in South Africa before so I think that was playing on our minds a bit and now, once we’ve got that win, I think we can push on to make a bit more history.
“So it is in the back of our heads but we’re not going to be as emotional or as invested in that to the detriment of our game-plan or how we’re going to play.
“As I said, it is going to be in the back of our heads but I think the main thing is to get the performance right.”
As if to reinforce that point, Ireland have been reviewing their second-half performance in Saturday night’s second Test when they allowed a 16-point lead slip to let South Africa level the series and wrest control of the momentum.
“We stood off them, we let them at us,” Toner said of the final quarter in which the tide turned.
“We fell off some tackles, so basically it comes down to physicality, getting the shoulder in and getting that first-up contact. Once you start falling off tackles and once you start to let them get over the gain-line, that’s what happens.
“So, I don’t know whether it was a lapse in concentration or lads were tired, but I think it was just that last 15/20 minutes kind of killed us.
“We’re expecting South Africa to play as they played in that last quarter this weekend.
“I think they’ll have a lot of confidence from those last 20 minutes.
“We can’t let them do that again, we can’t let them run at us, we can’t let them get over the gain-line as easily as we did.
“So, we’re going to have to take confidence from our performance in the first game and the first half, to know that we can do it, to know that we can negate their threats.”
South Africa prop Trevor Nyakane is out of the series decider and he joins Lood de Jager, Pat Lambie and Duane Vermeulen on the sidelines for the final game. Warren Whiteley is in a race to be fit.
In spite of their growing injury list, Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek believes the Boks are a growing threat as the series reaches its conclusion.
“South Africa played really well,” the former All Black said.
“They showed how dangerous they are as a team (in the last 20 minutes).
“We know we have to be better than that in that last quarter. They’re a world class side, so there’s a number of little things that we need to get right and I suppose looking after the ball is one thing and obviously there’s a few other errors that were made.
“Some of the guys who came in were probably trying a bit too hard at times maybe, so I suppose that’s the mental part of Test matches.
“We’re a little bit disappointed from the weekend but we also know it’s a tough ask to come over here and win one Test match so it’s certainly our focus for this week.”