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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 24 October, 2014

Up against it: 5 key battles Ireland must win to overcome South Africa

It’s not going to be easy at Lansdowne Road, but here’s where Ireland must thrive to arrest their losing run.

Image: INPHO

Mike Ross v Tendai “Beast” Mtwararira

Our best scrummager by a mile against the loose-head who has come on leaps and bounds since the raw force who ended up on the losing side two years ago.

South Africa have promised to go back to basics and they will try to grind Ireland to a standstill.

To prevent that, it’s imperative that Ross gets the upper hand in this one-on-one. If the tight-head goes well, then the rest will be able to follow.

The cousins.

Adriaan Strauss will take no shame in hoping his father’s brother’s son has a nightmare debut at the Aviva Stadium. Once again, the set-piece will be central to the visitors’ focus and after the Strauss boys go (quite literally) head-to-head in the scrum their individual accuracy at line-out time will tell us a lot about who will win out.

Most of all though, we’re just looking forward to their first collision in open field.

Mike McCarthy v Juandre Kruger

A few years ago you may have been handed a straight jacket for even thinking the Springboks could be targeted in the second row, but Victor Matfield is long gone.

There is nothing lightweight about Eben Etzebeth or Juandre Kruger but reputation and aura can go an awful long way in a battle of wits and machismo. McCarthy has a chance to put his sizeable frame in the way of ‘Bok dominance and his athleticism in the line-out can only be an asset.

He’s not Paul O’Connell, but he’s a hell of an understudy.

Ireland’s back row v Willem Alberts

Barry Aldworth/Sports Inc/Press Association Images

In the absence of Stephen Ferris and Sean O’Brien, Ireland lack a real BIG hitter. Iain Henderson may be Fez-in-waiting, but he is rightly placed on the bench. This test comes a little to soon for him so it is down to Ireland’s new captain, Jamie Heaslip, Peter O’Mahony and Chris Henry to fill the void.

The trio are helped by the fact that they have all been picked in their best positions, but as a unit they must play out of their skin to win enough collisions to keep Ireland’s ruck ball clean.

Jonathan Sexton v Patrick Lambie

It’s a big day for Lambie, it’s not his first start, but Heyneke Meyer has highlighted a need to find out which of his players can play on the road. Particularly a road near-by the World Cup 2015 boulevard.

Tactical kicking will be key, and if Ireland’s pack is getting shunted backwards then the pressure will be on Sexton to get the back-line – including himself as a dangerous carrier – moving wide at speed.

He has delivered his best in this fixture before. Time for a reprisal.

Here’s your ‘Separated at birth?’ pic of the day

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