Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt admits he has a big job on his hands to lift his troops for next week’s Test series decider against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
The New Zealander watched his side surrender a 16-point halftime lead to lose 32-26 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg as South Africa produced a stunning comeback to level the series.
Tries from Ruan Combrinck, Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Damian de Allende saw Ireland crumble in the face of the Springbok onslaught and while CJ Stander will be available for the final Test, Robbie Henshaw is now a major doubt after injuring his knee.
“It’ll take us a couple of days probably mentally to get over the anguish of surrendering the lead we had and, at the same time, trying to work our way back to being fit enough to train fully and build towards next weekend’s Test match,” he said.
Captain Rory Best is urging his side not to get too carried away with the nature of their defeat as he emphasised it’s all to play for at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium next Saturday with the series level at 1-1.
“It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing, but we know now that it’s one-all. We go to Port Elizabeth with a chance to win a Test series over here,” he said.
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee hailed the impact of his bench after securing the first win of his tenure.
In particular, local heroes Combrinck and Whiteley had a major influence in turning the game in their side’s favour.
“We have been together for 20 days, the comeback showed how much we can achieve and the potential there is,” Coetzee said.
“One of our core values is resilience and that showed. We were in a hole and had to get out. We will become a good team, I know that, tonight was a building block. Don’t write us off yet.”