Jack Conan: ‘If anything there is probably even more pressure this week'

Ireland number eight will come up against a new opponent in Leicester's Jasper Wiese

Jack Conan with Tadhg Beirne and Jamie George during British & Irish Lions squad training in South Africa. Photograph:   Billy Stickland/Inpho

Jack Conan with Tadhg Beirne and Jamie George during British & Irish Lions squad training in South Africa. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

All things considered, and all the more so after a fractured foot confined his 2019 World Cup experience to one appearance off the bench, the opportunity to be a part of a British & Irish Lions Test series win probably makes Saturday’s second Test the biggest game of Jack Conan’s career.

It’s certainly hard to think of a bigger prize to date. Not that he is overburdening or distracting himself with such thoughts.

“All I’m thinking about is just doing my job to the best of my ability, making life for the lads around me that bit easier by doing what I’ve been told to do, what I am good at, to my absolute utmost.

“So these big games, it’s not about going out there and doing the flashy things or having big moments. It’s just about being consistent in everything you do and making sure that mistakes are low and you’re nailed on with your job.”

In light of winning the first Test, he added, “if anything there is probably even more pressure this week to back up the performance of last weekend and go out there and get another victory and finish off this series within two weeks”.

“I think everyone is feeling the pressure a little bit more, which is pushing the standards. Even today in training it was probably one of the best sessions we’ve had.”

Conan, who turns 29 this week, will be coming up against a new Springboks “8” in Leicester’s Jasper Wiese, whose only previous cap was off the bench against Georgia this month. Ox Nché (neck strain) is ruled out after an eye-catching first half last Saturday as Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe start at prop, while Vinent Koch and Marco van Staden are called up to a 6-2 bench.

“He’s good, he’s a powerful young man,” said Conan of Wiese. “I think this is only his second cap for the Springboks, but he is undoubtedly a very good player who packs a big punch.

The British & Irish Lions

Full coverage of all the action in South Africa READ MORE

“Physically he is very good. I have seen bits of him throughout the year in the Premiership and he was one of the leading ball-carriers, so we know the physicality he is going to bring.”

Overshadowed

Meanwhile, and not exactly for the first time on this tour, even when announcing his Springboks selection for the second Test, their head coach Jacques Nienaber was somewhat overshadowed by the presence of his longtime friend and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus alongside him.

Erasmus denied he is one of the men behind the Jaco Johan twitter account which he has been referencing on his own official feed in the last couple of weeks despite the two’s suspiciously similar styles and graphics.

“That’s actually why I’m at the press conference, sorry to Jacques but I knew he was probably going to get that question,” Erasmus said.

“No I’m actually not Jaco Johan, I’m Rassie Erasmus. I actually follow Jaco Johan. He’s a big supporter of us. He’s been feeding me some really good clips for a while now, things that I’ve actually used in the past. He’s a very big supporter, a really funny guy and I quite enjoy the things that he does.”

Erasmus also defended his motives when posting a video of Ali Price supposedly taking Cheslin Kolbe out in the air and then of Mako Vunipola unceremoniously dragging a prone Kolbe to his feet by the scruff of his jersey, describing that as “reckless and dangerous”.

“As director of rugby the medical department is part of our department. I thought the way Cheslin was picked off the ground could have been a serious injury.

“We teach our primary school children from any age or level that you leave a player as he is there, because it is dangerous. We wouldn’t like our Springbok players this Saturday to go and pick up every Lions player who is on their back.”

Also referring to Warren Gatland’s misgivings about the former South African referee Marius Jonker being appointed as the TMO for the Tests, Erasmus said: “Warren is a great guy, I’ll tell you straight up, I always enjoy his company. He’s a good man. But it was weird for me that people would question Marius’ integrity.

“Say this weekend, Ben O’Keefe is a New Zealander and Warren is also a New Zealander, we would never say that. It wouldn’t sit well. The whole integrity of the game would be questioned, and we would never do that.

“I was baffled when Marius was appointed as the TMO. I’m actually very good friends, close, close friends with Marius. I know him really well so I actually made a point not to speak to him before that match because I felt it was such a tough thing for him to do.”

Short shrift

He also gave short shrift to observations by Sir Clive Woodward in his Daily Mail column regarding Erasmus’ contentious role as a waterboy, adding that he was undermining Nienaber, which in turn was “killing the Springboks”.

“I don’t know if his ‘Sir’ is so important in South Africa, but in England, I’m not sure. But that’s his opinion. Myself and Jacques are great mates. I am the water carrier at this stage, so I think he is higher than me in rank.

“We have always worked together since the military in 1990. The way we work together, if you look at that match on Saturday, when it was 71 [minutes] we almost scored a try, it was called back. Then our working relationship might have been perfect. Then people say it’s working really well.

“So, I wouldn’t listen to too much of Clive Woodward. He doesn’t really matter to me.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.