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Rory Best: Irish can feel hand of history

Skipper sure his side can recapture spirit of Cape Town to secure a first ever series triumph in South Africa

Jonathan Bradley

Published 25/06/2016

Follow the leader: Rory Best leads the Ireland Captain’s Run at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth yesterday
Follow the leader: Rory Best leads the Ireland Captain’s Run at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth yesterday

As Rory Best edges ever closer to the end of one of his longest seasons, the Ireland captain is ready for one last big showing in the decisive third Test against South Africa (4pm).

With World Cup training camps having commenced some 52 weeks ago, the 33-year-old could be forgiven for looking forward to the downtime that will follow the final whistle in Port Elizabeth.

Today's clash will be the 28th game of his campaign but the Ulsterman says there is no chance of allowing thoughts to drift towards the beach before Ireland try to seize history and clinch an away series against the Springboks for the first time.

"The couple of changes last week freshened things up and it kept the boys on the toes because there were a lot of good performances in the first Test and boys came in and really stepped up last week, for certainly a large part of the game," said Best following his Captain's Run yesterday.

"In terms of the body, look, it's a massive Test match, it's an opportunity to go out and win a Test series in South Africa," he added.

"There were times when you got to the last game of the season and you've one foot on the beach and that's definitely not the case now. You can tell the way we went about training on Tuesday and Thursday, there was a real intensity.

"I said when we first arrived in South Africa, the fact that we've had those breaks over the European weeks, it's not what you want but it's really freshened us up.

"With three games in a row, we knew what we were coming here to do. It's been tough and we knew all of that but we have one big push left, one massive 80 minutes to try and do something that no other Irish team has done and very few touring teams have done - and that's win a Test series in South Africa."

When Andy Farrell first met the media ahead of the tour, that was the very goal he outlined and he was hardly likely to change his tune yesterday with Ireland only one step away.

Having lost on all 12 visits prior to making history in Cape Town two weeks ago, the early confidence in his new side's chances - he replaced current Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss as defence coach - may have raised eyebrows but the former England man thinks this squad has plenty more in the tank.

"I don't think we've set the bar anywhere yet," he said.

"It was an heroic performance in the first Test, down to 13 and 14 men.

"It was an unbelievable performance of true grit but we've said to the lads this week we're looking for a benchmark performance to take forward.

"The boys ask, after every game and after every training session, what we need to improve on and there's plenty which we need to improve on, which is great.

"To win a Test series in South Africa you need to be at your best. We can still improve and hopefully that benchmark game is coming this weekend."

As Farrell's first international window working with Joe Schmidt comes to a close, he added that he has relished the experience.

"It's a fantastic time to come into this job because of the games that we are going to go through within my first year," he said.

"A Test series in South Africa, it really doesn't get any harder than that - we're in a fantastic situation now at 1-1 and a chance to win a Test series 2-1."

He added: "It's fantastic for the players. It's certainly fantastic for me."

  • South Africa v Ireland, Third Test: Port Elizabeth, Saturday, 4.00pm

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