The Springboks have some useful insights into the Ireland team they face tonight in Paris (9pm) thanks to the United Rugby Championship, according to loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff who joins Ulster after the World Cup.
It is an anomaly of the international fixture list that the Boks have played Ireland just once over the last six years.
And with Ireland on a 14-match unbeaten run, Kitshoff says it is a good job that the URC provides intelligence on the Irish players.
“I think the URC was brilliant, especially for us South African teams, getting a lot of experience playing against guys at Ulster, Munster, Connacht and Leinster, trying to figure out how to get victories against strong Irish teams,” Kitshoff said.
“I think we understand a bit of the mentality, and with Jacques and Rassie having coached at Munster, and Jean (Kleyn) and RG (Snyman) playing for Irish teams, you get a better understanding.
“It is all about getting the prep right in the week to make sure we can perform on the Saturday.”
An example is Kitshoff’s experience in the URC of playing against his direct opponent tonight, Tadhg Furlong, who is an institution at Leinster.
“Tadhg is an exceptional player – a good scrummager, great ball-carrier, good on defence. It’s going to be a tough battle.
“For us to have a full go at them, we all have to be on par, our pack and the guys off the bench. In big games like this, if your set piece doesn’t function, you are on the back foot.
“But we have trained hard since we got together in the pre-season camps, trying to improve our scrummage, so we are looking forward to the challenge.”
It is the same story for centre Damian de Allende, who matches up with in-form Connacht centre Bundee Aki.
“I have played against him a few times at Munster, but he didn’t play in the game for Ireland at the Aviva (Stadium) last year,” De Allende said.
“He is a fantastic player. He has always been up there with the best 12s in the world, and these past couple of games, he has been in good form.
“I know it’s his 50th cap (tonight) and he’s going to be raring to go, but I’m looking forward to the challenge – and hopefully we won’t disappoint each other.”