Joe Schmidt’s report card comes back looking healthy
Ireland coach delighted with the performance of midfield debutante Bundee Aki
Joe Schmidt’s scribbled report card. Deeper analysis to follow. Some talk of Bundee Aki below.
The Ireland coach understands karma, he knows not to squeeze already dripping Springbok misery with words when deeds will suffice.
It is clear what happened here.
The difference is undeniable. It can be simplified down to currency exchange between Rand and Euro. To the mass exodus of South African talent to French clubs, to the impossible task of rounding up players scattered across France, Ireland, England and beyond.
“Ya, I know where most players are playing,” said Rassie Erasmus at a recent Munster media day when asked about the exiles.
Peter O’Mahony tore his ear a little off Siya Kolisi’s stud. Otherwise the health of this Ireland squad, of Irish rugby in general is encouraging. A polar opposite narrative to these deeply damaged Springboks.
“In the changing room, physically, the players wouldn’t say [South African rugby] is going backwards,” says Schmidt. “I guess the margins in Test match rugby tend to be exaggerated sometimes . . . ”
You have read the rest of this Schmidt answer before, it finishes with:
“We would be naive think the next time we play the Springboks there would be a 35-point margin because that’s just not reality.”
But the game suffered – South Africa being done 57-0 in New Zealand and now 38-3 in Dublin damages rugby.
Schmidt does not, nor should he, care.
“I don’t think it’s bad for the game. Two years ago we were told there was a massive crevice in between southern hemisphere rugby and northern hemisphere rugby.
“We have an advantage when they come up here. This is our home patch and we haven’t lost too much in Dublin in the last four or five years.”
During the warm-up Robbie Henshaw and Aki found a small patch to toss the ball back and forth. Henshaw was watching his good pal. He already knows Bundee would walk into danger for him, both on and off the field. Watching to make sure the Test match arena didn’t spook him.
It didn’t. Aki broke the Springbok tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen, in the game’s opening collision. A fully fledged Ireland international that brings an interesting twist to midfield selection when Garry Ringrose returns.
“I don’t think anyone was surprised that the synergy was pretty good there,” said Schmidt. “Bundee got in some smashing tackles. He is a very calm character. In training during the week, quiet words, but he brings a fair bit of experience, and he and Robbie have a real understanding.
“That was part of what made it a little bit more comfortable for us putting them together. I thought Bundee was super.”