The Boks’ director said the Irish No 10 had an ‘aura’ and was a ‘very intimidating’ figure for the defending champions.
The Springboks’ main challenge in their third pool match of the Rugby World Cup on Saturday will be dealing with Ireland’s biggest threat, their flyhalf general Johnny Sexton, according to SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
Despite being 38-years-old and in the twilight of his career, Sexton is still an integral part of the Irish setup and with this his final run on the international stage and possibly in rugby overall, he will be eager to end his storied career on the highest possible note.
Erasmus is keenly aware of the impact that the Irish captain has on his side, having faced him on numerous occasions when he was in charge of Munster and with the Boks as well, and he will want the players to be fully prepared for that challenge.
‘Aura around him’
“He is vital in my opinion. When I was at Munster, we beat them (Leinster, where Sexton plays) once. Whenever Johnny is in the team a lot of things happen, not just as a player. I think the aura around him and his presence (is incredible),” said Erasmus.
“For a man at 38 to score tries like he did this weekend (against Tonga). As long as he is physically out there, there is no doubt about (his influence on the team).
“The aura he has about him is exceptional, not just for his own team but very intimidating for us as the opposition.”
Ireland have never made it past the quarterfinal stage of a World Cup before but they couldn’t be better placed to do it this time around as the top team in World Rugby and being on a terrific run of form.
Their two massive wins over Romania and Tonga sees them on top of pool B and a win over the Boks will secure their place in the quarterfinals ahead of their final pool match against Scotland.
Bok assistant coach Deon Davids believes that the Boks have to be at their best in all facets if they want to come away from the match with a win which would elevate them to the top of the pool.
“We are playing the number one in the world. You don’t get there if you don’t perform well. They are a very well-coached side, their overall game to their attack and defence. They have got some very experienced players which forms part of their make-up,” said Davids.
“For us, it is going to be important to be on par, set-piece-wise and in attack. For us to play against the number one team in the world and aspiring to get through in the tournament, this is one of the games we understand you need to be at your best in all departments.”