By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG, June 16 (Reuters) – An embarrassing home defeat for South Africa in their opening test against Ireland could provoke either a devastating backlash or be the precursor to more turmoil as the sides meet again on Saturday in the second test at Ellis Park.
The tourists produced a logic-defying 26-20 win at Newlands in Cape Town last weekend despite playing with only 14 men for three quarters of the match after the early dismissal of flanker CJ Stander for their first ever away win over South Africa.
The plucky performance now offers the Irish a chance for a series win that would have seemed unthinkable when they arrived in the country with a squad depleted by injury to key players and hand a major psychological blow to South African rugby.
But Ireland coach Joe Schmidt warned he anticipated something of a backlash as a chastised Springbok outfit look to restore lost reputations with the advantage of high altitude at a ground where they have had much past success.
“With a new coach they have not had much time to bed down their philosophy but they are going to get better with each game. That is why it is important for us to grasp our moment if we can,” Schmidt said after naming five changes from the heroic first test team.
His opposite number Allister Coetzee made only two injury-enforced changes, saying he wanted to give his players a chance to redeem themselves. The Springboks have been heavily criticised since Saturday’s loss.
“We spoke hard and were very frank in our assessment of last week’s performance. The Springboks are capable of executing the fundamentals of the game much better and that’s what we will set out do on Saturday. We know Ireland will come with a real desire to clinch the series, however, we must be ready to confront them and put ourselves into a position to succeed.
“I believe players who played in Cape Town deserve another opportunity and I am looking forward to see what they can do this week. The intention is to come out this week and put up a performance that is in line with the ability of this team,” he added.
It will be the first time Ireland play at Ellis Park, which sits a lung-busting 1,810m (5,940 ft) above sea level.
The final test is in Port Elizabeth on June 25.
(Editing by Toby Chopra)