Stuart Hogg: Facing South Africa makes you think ‘when is this going to stop’ but here’s how Ireland can win

Writing exclusively for The Independent, Scotland and Lions legend Stuart Hogg unpicks the biggest match of the pool stage – a colossal battle between the Springboks and Ireland – and reflects on Scotland having reached the nervy ‘win or bust’ stage already

Friday 22 September 2023 13:31 BST
South Africa’s relentless defence meets Ireland’s intricate attack in a potential game of the tournament
South Africa’s relentless defence meets Ireland’s intricate attack in a potential game of the tournament (AFP via Getty)

South Africa against Ireland could be the game of the tournament. Every weekend so far at this Rugby World Cup we’ve had big games to look forward to, but I think this one might top France vs New Zealand on the opening night. This is massive in terms of Pool B, the pool of death.

This will be like a long game of chess. At times, there could be a lot of kicking to see who cracks first. I’ve talked before about South Africa knowing their DNA better than anyone else, but I think the closest team to that would be Ireland. Look at the seven forwards to one back split on the bench – South Africa know exactly what they are going to do. They are going to be hugely physical, they are going to stick to their gameplan and try to shut Ireland down defensively. But Ireland are a very clever rugby side that will no doubt have gone over South African performances with a fine toothcomb and picked out many opportunities to exploit.

A massive strength of South Africa is their defence, their line speed and their ability to win huge collisions. You just feel suffocated when you come up against the Springboks’ blitz defence. I remember playing against it on the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour. You just had no room to breathe whatsoever. It was relentless – it came at you time and time again. You were just thinking: “When is this going to stop?”

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