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Proud Ireland coach Schmidt hails his conquering heroes

Payne injury is downside to fantastic victory

By Michael Sadlier

Delighted Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has hailed the valiant team effort behind a fantastic 29-15 victory over South Africa as ‘superhuman’.

And Schmidt insisted the heroic performance can be a benchmark for the future with an obvious view to next year’s World Cup.

“At times our performance was superhuman,” Schmidt enthused. “But we’ve got to keep evolving. That’s the challenge.

“Past performance guarantees nothing in the future. The only thing that guarantees performance is the best preparation you can put yourself through.”

Schmidt is nevertheless expected to rotate his side for Sunday’s next autumn international test again Georgia, easing the recovery worries over Ulster pair, Jared Payne, with a foot injury, and Chris Henry who was ruled out before kick-off by illness.

Payne's foot was speedily X-rayed after the player, who made his international debut against the Springboks, came off late in the game and he it is believed that he will undergo further tests today.

The New Zealander, who qualified for Ireland through his three-year playing residency at Ulster, may have sprained his foot as Schmidt indeed suggested after the game and, in a worst case scenario, this could potentially rule him out of any further input in the autumn series.

"Just chatting to Jared and the doc, we think he might have sprained his foot," the victorious coach said.

"He's had an X-ray that's clear so it's a step in the right direction, not that he's probably taking too many rampant strides at the moment," the coach quipped.

"But I'm hopeful that it will be okay, but we won't know until probably Monday evening or Tuesday, because I think there are some scans booked for Monday, just to get a better picture on that foot," Schmidt added.

As for flanker Henry, the word on him yesterday was that his symptoms were improving and that he would continue to be monitored.

Schmidt said that the Ulsterman was unwell early on Saturday morning and that the the player who was an integral part of the Six Nations title-winning side was suffering from an unspecified virus.

"It meant he wasn't capable of playing and he's going to be checked out fully and when we know the full results of that he'll be be back in camp on Monday or Tuesday," Schmidt stated.

Ireland return to camp this week to prepare for Sunday's Test against Georgia, who incidentally lost 23-9 to Tonga in Tbilisi last Saturday, and it is expected that the remaining Ulster players in the squad, who did not participate in the Test against South Africa, will be given run-outs.

This could mean that Robbie Diack, who was 24th man last Saturday, Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Rob Herring are all going to be included in the squad to take on the Georgians, six days before Ireland's closing autumn Test with Australia.

Meanwhile, Payne's centre partner Robbie Henshaw admitted that he was relieved to kick-start Ireland's life after Brian O'Driscoll with an impressive victory over South Africa.

The Connacht player stated that he hopes Saturday's win can go some way to diffusing all the talk of now-retired O'Driscoll's long-term successor.

Head coach Schmidt paired Henshaw and Payne in the midfield to face the Boks and the two main rivals to replace O'Driscoll belied their paltry pre-match tally of just three caps to contain Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers and the fast-rising star Jan Serfontein.

Twenty one-year-old Henshaw said he hopes to draw huge confidence from facing down a "world-class" centre pairing without flinching.

"Yeah the first one was always going to be key, to get the win there," said Henshaw, admitting relief at the result.

"And especially against the number two team in the world, we were delighted to get the win.

"To win out there was certainly a tough task. It was really good to get over the line. It sets us up nicely for the next two weeks," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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