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Joe Schmidt relying on Ulster's magnificent seven as Ireland take aim at South Africa again

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland may have made history with a first-ever away victory over South Africa last weekend but Joe Schmidt has rung the changes for the second Test with a starting side that boasts seven Ulstermen.

As the series switches to the Highveld for Saturday's rematch, the head coach has made five alterations from the famous triumph in Cape Town with only one enforced due to CJ Stander's one-week ban.

Craig Gilroy, who won his first cap since facing Georgia in 2014 off the bench last weekend, comes into the starting side while his Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding, who has not featured for Ireland since that same November International two years ago, joins Robbie Henshaw in midfield.

It means an all Ulster back-three, with Andrew Trimble across from Gilroy and Jared Payne at full-back, while Olding takes the place of Luke Marshall who was exceptional in Newlands.

While Schmidt acknowledged as much, he seemed curious to see what Olding, a player he likened to long-time starting inside centre Gordon D'Arcy, can bring to the Test stage.

"I think he's maybe a little more in the Gordon D'Arcy mould, a guy with some footwork and some ability to play as a second receiver, although I thought Luke Marshall did incredibly well doing exactly that and that was one of things that attracted us to Luke in the first place," he said.

"He was ending up as a first receiver often in the way Ulster were attacking.

"We think Stu can bring a little bit of the same, the fact that he's a left-footer as well. That brings a little bit of a different dimension technically because we'd normally have a number of left footers in our backline but without Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Simon Zebo, we're very right-foot dominant so there's a few different things that he can bring to the equation.

"The other thing is Stu is a tough character. He stays in the game very well and I think he punches above his weight just as Gordon D'Arcy did."

Among the other changes, Mike Ross, who has been a near ever-present in Schmidt's selections, is replaced by his Leinster understudy Tadhg Furlong.

In his first Test start, the mobile Furlong will have his hands full at scrum time up against Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira.

With Stander unavailable, Iain Henderson switches to blindside flanker meaning a first cap for Quinn Roux.

The South African-born lock found himself outside the Connacht matchday 23 for their run to the Pro12 title but before departing Schmidt talked of his ability to pack down on the tighthead side of the second-row.

"It is a big day for Tadhg, I know that he and Quinn and Iain Henderson on that axis on the scrum, will work hard to be as combative as possible," he added yesterday.

"(Furlong) has spent a huge amount of time with us, he was at the World Cup and then for the season. It's a huge ask for him, we wouldn't do it if we weren't confident he could step up.

"Finlay's played a lot of tighthead for us at training, as well as loosehead. He has played a lot of tighthead for Connacht and has probably pushed his way past (new Ulster signing) Rodney Ah You."

Roux may not be the only debutant on Saturday as both Ulster's Sean Reidy and Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran have been named on the bench.

After the chastising experience of his first game in charge, Allister Coetzee has made five changes to his match-day squad.

Pat Lambie, injured in the incident that saw Stander red-carded, is replaced at fly-half by Elton Jantjies, while Lood de Jager is another to miss out through injury with Pieter Steph du Toit filling the void.

Lock Franco Mostert and back Ruan Combrinck come onto the bench and stand to make their debuts if called upon.

The fifth change is the inclusion of the experienced number ten Morne Steyn among the replacements.

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