Playing in South Africa ‘special’, says Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says it will be “special” for the world champions to play at home for the first time since last July when they face Ireland on Saturday.

Kick-off is at 17:00.

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“To be able to come home and play for the people and the country who we have been playing for all along is very special,” he told an eve-of-match press conference in Pretoria on Friday.

Loftus Versfeld sold out

Tickets for the Test at the 52 000-capacity Loftus Versfeld were sold out in 30 minutes, emphasising the huge support the national rugby team enjoy.

Pretoria will host the highly anticipated first clash between the world champions and Six Nations title-holders, with the second and final Test in Durban on July 13.

After beating Argentina in the Rugby Championship in Johannesburg 12 months ago, South Africa played two Rugby World Cup warm-up matches in Britain.

The Springboks then played seven times at the global tournament in France, where they recovered from a pool-stage defeat by Ireland to edge arch rivals New Zealand in the final.

Ahead of the Ireland tour, top-ranked South Africa beat Wales at Twickenham, but Kolisi was among several absentees as the match fell outside the internationals window.

Acknowledging that the Springboks have lost their last three encounters with the second-ranked Irish, Kolisi said he believes the breakdowns battle will be crucial as they seek to turn the tables.

Breakdowns crucial

“The breakdowns will be one of the big battles tomorrow. In the World Cup pool match we conceded a few penalties there, and we know that if Ireland get quick ball, they will be dangerous.

“We need to be sharp, get to the breakdowns and advantage line quickly, and make good decisions. We also have to be clinical and physical.”

Siya Kolisi played down the media hype surrounding the match, saying “We do not look at those things – world champions versus Six Nations champions”.

“For us it is all about going out there and trying to win the match. Ireland are the one team we have not been able to beat in a while, so it is a big challenge for us.”

Reflecting on the Springbok captaincy he has held since 2018, the loose forward from French Top 14 club Racing 92 said “it is not easy, but neither is it hard”.

“It is a huge honour to be the Springboks captain, and it is great that it means so much to the public and the team as well,” said Kolisi.

“Each player in the team has a role to play and it is an honour for us all to represent our country.

“As coach Rassie (Erasmus) has said, the captaincy is not a big thing for this group – what we care about most is what happens on the field.”

Springboks vs Ireland history spans 118 years

The 28-Test rivalry between South Africa and Ireland spans 118 years and has taken a dramatic swing.

South Africa won 14 and drew one of the first 16 internationals up to 2004, but have lost eight of the last 12.

Seated beside Siya Kolisi, Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said “against a team like Ireland you will probably get five (scoring) chances and you must use them to come out on top”.

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse

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