November is upon us ladies and gents, hot whiskey sales are shooting up, scarves suddenly seem appropriate, charity moustaches are beginning to sprout and the southern hemispheres finest have arrived to once again teach us uppity Europeans about the futility of our rugby playing exploits.
South Africa arrive in Dublin off the back of a stunning victory over the New Zealand in Ellis Park last month. While the All Blacks are currently the 6/4 favourites for next year’s World Cup it can be argued that it’s the Springboks (4/1 to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy) who look the more likely to be hitting their peak come next September.
A lot is being made of a supposed new style of play being employed by the Boks. They don’t simply beat the living daylights out of you and then kick the conversion anymore. No, no, they’ve got a new breed of flying Dutchmen in the back-line. The likes of Handré Pollard, Cornal Hendricks and Willie Le Roux are more interested in running you ragged than beating you black and blue.
Having said that, they do still have Eben Etzebeth and the Du Plessis boys in the side, so they probably won’t be abandon the old reliable severe beatings just yet.
Ireland go into the game as Six Nations champions but it’s difficult to look past the injuries that have robbed the side of Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien, Rory Best, Dave Kearney, Andrew Trimble…I could go on here…for ages…seriously loads of them are injured, bloody loads.
Another name missing from the Ireland squad is that of Brian O’Driscoll. It has long been acknowledged that it would take a hell of a player to fill the number 13 jersey once the great man retired. Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw and the recently naturalised (meaning he’s not Irish at all but has been in the country for the requisite three years) Jared Payne have generally been touted as the two guys most likely to succeed as Ireland’s next outside centre.
While most people assumed that Ireland coach Joe Schmidt would choose one of these guys to take O’Driscoll’s place, old Schmidty had another idea, play them both! Unfortunately, Ireland have not been given special dispensation to play 16 men this weekend (damn those pesky rules) and so poor old Gordon D’Arcy has had to make way.
The 21-year-old Henshaw has taken over the 12 jersey from D’Arcy and so it’s Payne who will pull on the famous number 13. Can the Kiwi-born Ulsterman step up and replace the most gifted player of his generation? Well he’s 25/1 to pick up the Man of the Match.
The more positive Irish fans will point to the relatively decent run of games against the Boks in recent years (three victories in the last five matches) and also note that South Africa have lost their last two away games, against the Wallabies and All Blacks respectively.
However, given the importance being placed on the tour by the southern hemisphere sides and the amount of front liners missing from the Irish squad, the handicap of Ireland (+6.0) at 11/10 might be a tad more enticing.