La Rochelle head coach and Irish legend Ronan O’Gara has provided key insight on how his countrymen can break down the Springboks on Saturday.
The No 1 and 2 teams in the world lock horns at the Stade de France in a World Cup Pool B clash that will be decisive for both teams’ quarter-final ambitions.
The Irish scored eight tries to earn a 59-16 win over Tonga in their second match of the tournament last week, after they kicked off their campaign with a 12-try demolition of Romania.
The Boks have conceded no tries in their opening victories against Scotland and Romania, but in a conversation with former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton for RugbyPass, O’Gara identified chinks in the world champions’ rush defence that can be exploited.
“For me the key to attacking a rush defence is you’ve got to attack flailing arms, and that’s a skill in itself. Because if you run into bodies you’re tackled behind the gainline and the ball is going to be held up and ruck speed is going to be four to five seconds,” said O’Gara, who recently was overtaken by Johnny Sexton as Ireland’s all-time top points scorer.
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“But if you can identify opportunities for late footwork at the line into flailing arms, the capacity for high shots – which nowadays is a red card or a yellow card on an average occasion – footwork and short passes, everyone nowadays wants to play long pass-long pass … if you want to play long-pass long-pass against SA they’ll eat you up with salt.
“It’s exactly what they’re looking for and what you need to do is reduce the space between your nine and 10, and your first receiver, so that nine and 10 may only take three South Africans, and 10 to the next attacker may only have three defenders – they might only have eight in the line.
“But you’ve got to know that if you can get accuracy on that second pass, so nine to 10, 10 to Bundee Aki or [Garry] Ringrose and the shooter will come at him… he’ll not get the capacity to go one-two long pass, but he might get hit ball and all and you might get the opportunity to tip [a short pass].
“But even better, who’s behind [the attacker]? James Lowe or Mack Hansen, and they’re gone. Because we’ve tried to go through them we’ve taken seven defenders, and that’s my theory for the rush defence.”