Ireland, South Africa both hoping for stern test in Dublin

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DUBLIN : Ireland host South Africa in Dublin on Saturday in an autumn international clash between the top side in the global rankings and the world champions, which comes 10 months before they meet again at the Rugby World Cup in France.

It is the first time the sides will do battle in five years, since Ireland handed the Springboks a chastening 38-3 drubbing in Dublin that hastened the exit of former Bok coach Allister Coetzee.

This weekend’s fixture has the potential to provide a massive psychological boost to the winner ahead of their World Cup showdown at the Stade de France in September next year and in the case of Ireland keep up their forward trajectory.

They claimed a historic first series win in New Zealand in July and coach Andy Farrell is hopeful the Boks provide his side with the kind of challenge that will sharpen them further.

“We want South Africa to be at their best, we want ourselves to be too,” he told reporters.

“We know they want to use their defence as an attacking weapon. We know they are very, very good at getting out of their own half and they manage the middle third well.

“And 100 per cent a point of difference for them is the maul. So territory, possession and discipline all come together to a perfect place that they keep on consistently getting to.

“We know at set-pieces we’re going to be tested but we want to be tested.”

Farrell has made two changes from the side that won the third test in New Zealand, with Conor Murray replacing Jamison Gibson-Park at scrumhalf and wing Robert Baloucoune in for the injured James Lowe.

Jacques Nienaber, who took over as Bok coach after their World Cup win in Japan and is under the watchful eye of director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, is under no illusions as to the task facing his side.

“They (Ireland) have got a well-balanced game. They keep the ball in hand and they’re the best offensive side in the world. They are conceding the least tries and points,” Nienaber said.

“That’s why it’s such a challenge for us as players and coaches to come and compete against Ireland, especially at the Aviva (Stadium), which is a fortress for them.”

The Boks have selected Cheslin Kolbe in what many believe is his best position of fullback and, with Damian Willemse at flyhalf and Kurt-Lee Arendse on the wing, they have some of the most explosive runners in the world game.

They will hope for dry weather to allow their physical forward pack to lay the platform to unleash their exciting backline and give Farrell the test he clearly craves.

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