during the 2021 Carling Black Label Currie Cup Final between the Bulls and Sharks at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on 11 September 2021 © Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
during the 2021 Carling Black Label Currie Cup Final between the Bulls and Sharks at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on 11 September 2021 © Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

’Physicality’ is exactly what the Irish sides expect from SA franchises in United Rugby Championship

By Morgan Bolton Time of article published Sep 16, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - It comes as absolutely no surprise that the four Irish provincial sides that will face the South African franchises in the upcoming United Rugby Championship (URC) had one word all in common on their lips: “Physicality”.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Garry Ringrose of Leinster, Ulsterman Kieran Treadwell, Chris Farrell of Munster and Paul Boyle of Connacht all revealed what that they believe it to be the defining characteristic of this nation’s game in the newly-minted competition, and all-and-sundry agreed that they will be in for battle of flesh and bone when the play the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

“From what I’ve seen and the small amount that I have played against them,” said centre Ringrose, “I think South African teams tend to pride themselves on their physicality. So, that is coming your way.

“They build from the set-piece, they are incredibly strong - from their internationals, to the club game they have built. They have athletes out on the wider channels that can leave you for dead pace-wise. Certainly, when they get it right, South African teams can be incredibly difficult to beat. The teams that are joining now most definitely are bringing a stronger level then what we played against in the past.”

It was a sentiment that Treadwell of Ulster also emphasized – the mix of the the physical game and the uncanny pace that the outbacks possess.

Said the 25-year-old lock: “(We play) the Bulls next week.

“I watched them in their (Currie Cup) final against the Sharks two weeks ago. They are pretty much as good as it gets, if not better. They have had two weeks to prep ...

“I wouldn’t describe any South African team as easy,” the Irish international continued, regarding whether the four new SA temas will be toghter than the Cheetahs and Kings, repsectfully. “Having studied a bit of them, the Bulls have been incredible.

"Sometimes there is a narrative around the type of rugby South African teams might play, the Bulls kind of put that to bed a little bit when you look at their past five, or six results and they are close to 40 points a game in terms of their attack. They are probably a team that can do all of it.”

The Bulls are not the only team that will open their account in the URC against an Irish team. The Sharks play their first match of the tournament against a powerful, South African-laden Munster next weekend. In the build-up to the tournament, there has been much chatter regarding how the Saffas will approach these ‘new and alien’ conditions up north, and whether they will change their style and gameplan accordingly.

Farrell, who plays alongside Springbok centre Damian de Allende for the Red Army, expounded his belief, however, that this undiscovered country will not have the massive impact that many believe it will.

“No matter what the conditions,” the 28-year-old revealed, “the brand of rugby and the style of rugby that equates to winning doesn’t change that much. You see it with all the top teams, with the international teams. You saw it with South Africa against the Lions – the top teams play a similar brand of rugby. I don’t think that is going to change our mindset.”

But what can South Africans expect from the Irish teams?

Loose-forward Boyle gave a smidgen of insight into that question from a Westerners point of view.

“This year our big focus is tempo and playing fast, so we will try to match-up against the South Africans as best we can. They are going to be physical and they play at a high tempo, so we are going to be trying to out-fast each other.

“It should be an interesting match-up,” he concluded.

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