Caelan Doris admits to initially being shocked by the sheer size of the South Africa team but insists facing the fearsome might of the so-called ‘Bomb Squad’ will not significantly alter Ireland’s game plan.
Back-rower Doris will take on the Springboks for only the second time in his career in Saturday evening’s crunch Rugby World Cup showdown in Paris.
The 25-year-old helped Ireland register a 19-16 win over the reigning world champions in November following a bruising Dublin encounter in which he was taken aback by the hefty bulk of the opposition.
The Springboks will again look to impose brute strength on Andy Farrell’s men after naming a seven-one split of forwards and backs on their bench for this weekend’s pivotal Pool B clash at Stade de France.
Asked what distinguishes South Africa from other sides, Doris replied: “Physicality is the word that comes to mind.
“I remember being shocked at just the sheer size of them, playing them in November.
“They kind of do a six-two or even seven-one sometimes off the bench and have massive reinforcements coming off the bench as well.
“But it’s definitely not the only string to their bow. They’ve got a lot of pace in their backs and their forwards are capable of keeping the ball alive and offloading.
“Obviously the physicality is tied into their set-piece, they’ve got a great maul, great lineout options as well, a very strong lineout and scrum as well, so getting those areas right is going to be big.”
Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who was then head coach, adopted the stacked bench tactic during his side’s run to lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 2019.
Doris insists Ireland will not be deviating from the approach which has brought 15 successive Test wins.
“It doesn’t actually change too much,” he said.
“We talk about delivering an 80-minute performance regardless of who we are playing and knowing that some teams target the last 20 minutes.
“We also speak of our bench coming on and not just fitting in but actually taking it up a level. That will be important for us this weekend.”
Ireland, who have topped the Test rankings for more than a year, can seal progression to the World Cup quarter-finals with success in the French capital.
Doris feels better equipped to deal with the pressures of performing in front of a capacity Stade de France crowd than during last year’s Six Nations when Farrell’s men suffered a 30-24 loss to France.
“There’s so much belief amongst this group and there’s belief that we can still get a lot better,” he said.
“Delivering that in such a big game in Paris in front of 80,000 people – hopefully there will be a lot of Irish there – is just about constantly getting better as a group and believing that we can improve quite a bit.
“We are always striving for the perfect performance.”
Referring to the 2022 defeat to Les Bleus, he continued: “From the warm-up there was a palpable intensity in the atmosphere from the French in particular, drums banging and stuff like that.
“Having experienced it once, it is an easier thing to visualise and be aware of. It will be a little bit less of a shock for me.”