New role for Jared Payne in Ireland opener
New Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will take charge of his first game this weekend and he has selected three uncapped players in his 23-man squad for the opening match of the three-Test series between the two countries.
In spite of the new faces, there is still an experienced core available to the new man who can call on experienced players like Willie le Roux, JP Pieterson, Tendai Mtawarira and Duane Vermeulen.
Schmidt named his side for the first Test yesterday, with Jared Payne at full-back and Paddy Jackson at fly-half in a new-look line-up after he lost a host of key players including Johnny Sexton to injury.
And he does not believe that the hosts are more beatable because of their newcomers.
“I’d love to think they are, but I don’t think they will be,” he said.
“Allister Coetzee, he knows a number of the players very well. He’s coached a number of them for a long time, he’s coached in South Africa for a long time. He coached last time as assistant coach the last time in 2004, that’s how long he’s been involved at this level.
“It’s a different group, but that group has now transitioned through a lot of players that he’s actually coached so I think they’ll come together pretty quickly, I know the quality of the player that they have.
“I think they’ve got some super players, I think it’s really well-known that they have a number of world-class players and some of them are based here and some of them they’ve got back from overseas which we thought might not happen but no doubt, they’ll be there and be fully present on Saturday.”
The loss of Sexton is huge for an Ireland side who are largely built around their number 10, but the head coach backed Jackson to fill the void.
“He’s slotted in really well,” Schmidt added. “I think that he’s bided his time, he’s been in camp a lot when Johnny’s been in camp so he’s seen Johnny kind of dictating the game, he has been the conductor of the orchestra and we’re confident that Paddy can step up and do a similar job,” Schmidt said.
“I think he’s got big boots to fill, but I think his feet will slot in quite nicely.”
In spite of the loss of so many key leaders, Schmidt says he wants his team to put together a performance that will allow them to compete in the three-game series.
“We’re hoping to get something to build on, a platform to build on to try to put some things together that give us a little bit of confidence going forward,” he said.
“You’re never going to be in a situation where everything works and transitions are seamless. You’re always going to have things to work out after that first Test.
“There’s a number of new personnel and we’re just hoping that we get enough confidence this weekend that we continue to build through the series.”