Skipper Rory Best urges Ireland to be calm before Ellis Park clash

Ireland captain Rory Best
Ireland captain Rory Best

Ireland captain Rory Best has urged his team to stay calm and clinch an historic Test series victory at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Ulster hooker led his team through their final preparations at the Johannesburg venue ahead of the bid to follow the All Blacks and the Lions into the record books as the only teams to win three-match series in South Africa.

Ireland beat the Springboks in the first Test in Cape Town last week, overcoming the first-half red card shown to CJ Stander to clinch a 26-20 win.

It was their first away win over the World Cup semi-finalists, but they have parked that piece of history and are going after more this weekend.

“Motivation-wise, it’s never an issue for us,” Best said.

“If you talk to any international player, pulling on a Test jersey is special. We know, the same as last week, there’s an opportunity to create history here.

“We took a step forward last week in terms of being the first team to (win here). Now, we have an opportunity to win a Test series which is unbelievably difficult to do.

“That’s probably the big driver this week is that it’s going to take a phenomenal performance to win here.

“There’s a reason why so few teams come here and win a Test series and that’s because it’s hard to do.

“So for us it’s about making sure that we get ourselves right, we do the same homework if not more homework than we did last week on the Springboks and we make sure that we’re in a position (to win).

“We know the Springboks aren’t going to hand history to us, we have to take it ourselves. That’s going to be the tough challenge and I suppose that’s the challenge that you’re up for.”

It will be a special occasion for South African born lock Quinn Roux who lines up against the country of his birth for the first time on his international debut.

He follows in the footsteps of replacement hooker Richardt Strauss and Stander and Best acknowledged that it will be a different kind of debut for the Pretoria native.

“It’s something that Quinn, along with CJ and Straussy, invested in a number of years ago when they moved to Ireland,” he said.

“It’s an accumulation of a lot of hard work for Quinn. It’s a special day pulling on a Test jersey for the first time and he’ll obviously be very nervous especially in front of probably a lot of friends and family.

“What we always say to all the debutants is you’ve got to relax and enjoy it especially this next 24 hours, there’s something really special about the build-up to an international, the nerves, the butterflies, everything that goes with it and you’ve got to enjoy that.

“It’s a few years since I got it but I remember people saying it goes by in a flash. At the time, you think it doesn’t but when you look back, it does.

“So, I think for him it’s important to savour this next 24-odd hours and then just come five o’clock, just do what he’s been doing for his province at home and that’s why he’s been selected.”

Ireland had no fresh injury worries after yesterday’s training session as Joe Schmidt put his re-jigged team through their paces at Ellis Park.

And Best believes his troops are in for their toughest possible test.

“I was out here in an Under-21 World Cup and it’s a magnificent stadium,” he recalled.

“It really is what rugby stadiums should be about, you can just imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like out there.”

“Look, it’s going to be a massive test for us but it’s one we’re very much looking forward to.

“To come to South Africa and play the Springboks in Johannesburg it’s up there as one of the toughest Test matches you’ll face.

“We’ve been concentrating on how we can improve.

“We know the Springboks are going to come out and they’re going to want to be better, but we also want to make sure that in this next game that we improve our own performance.

“There’s going to be a lot of intensity and a lot of ferocity in the first 10 minutes especially and we know that and we’re going to have to be as prepared as we can for that, but I don’t think in terms of any psychological advantage.

“We talked before the first game that we have beaten them before and that we know how to beat them but knowing how to beat them and actually doing that are two different things.

“We take confidence from what we achieved last week but we know that this is a different track, a different match and I’m sure we’re going to face a different Springboks side as well.”