Mike Catt’s Ireland motivated enough without Springbok sniping

FILE - Ireland's assistant coach Mike Catt attends a training session. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/AFP

FILE - Ireland's assistant coach Mike Catt attends a training session. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/AFP

Published Jun 24, 2024


Six Nations title holders Ireland are motivated enough for their upcoming Tests with Rugby World Cup champions South Africa to not be wound up by barbed comments from Springbok players, assistant coach Mike Catt said on Monday.

Ireland travel to South Africa on Tuesday bidding to win a series there for the first time, emboldened in being on a three match winning streak against them and were the only side to beat the Springboks at last year's Rugby World Cup.

"We've been pretty successful over the past three times we've played them, they're chomping at the bit," Catt told reporters.

However, three of the most pivotal players in the pool match win are missing in the 35-man squad — the first Test is in Pretoria on July 6 and the second a week later in Durban.

Iconic fly-half Johnny Sexton has retired, scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park is injured and fullback Hugo Keenan is focusing on the Olympics with the sevens squad.

Ireland's victory at the World Cup prompted veteran South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth to have a go at the Ireland and accuse them of being complacent following it.

Despite being viewed by many as favourites they went out in the quarter-finals.

South Africa's success in winning a record fourth World Cup has also not earned them the respect they deserve from the Irish media which has further motivated the hosts according to Etzebeth's fellow two-time world champion Damian de Allende.

South Africa-born Catt, who leaves his role as attack coach following the tour, said they would set aside the "white noise" and focus on emulating their historic series win over New Zealand in 2022.

"The rivalry's been good, that's what you want at Test level, it's why you play the game," said Catt.

"There's been a lot said in the press and this and that, it's getting rid of all the white noise, what's important for us is to put in a hell of a performance, and go and challenge to win a series down in South Africa."

'Challenge ourselves'

Catt, 52, said the rivalry was grand as long as it did not overstep the mark.

"It's healthy, you want that rivalry," said Catt.

"You want that — not hatred — but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It's good."

Catt, a World Cup winner with England in 2003, said Etzebeth and De Allende are welcome to keep on sniping.

"For us it's not a problem," said Catt.

"People can say what they want, it means nothing to us.

"Let them keep talking.

"It doesn't fuel anything, it doesn't make it any better or worse.

"We know exactly what we need to do to go down there and be successful."

Catt is mindful the Springbok coaching set up is different to the one at the World Cup with 2023 director of rugby Rassie Erasmus replacing head coach Jacques Nienaber, who left for Leinster.

Erasmus, who had a spell in charge of Munster from 2016-17, resumes the role he had when he guided South Africa to the 2019 World Cup title.

They got off to a winning start with a 41-13 thumping of Wales at Twickenham on Saturday despite missing several of their regulars.

"They were very good," said Catt.

"The young boys coming in, came off the bench got their first caps and were electric.

"Then the old heads, your Pieter Steph du Toit, Jesse Kriel and those guys are world class.

Catt said despite the season now being a year long the hunger is there for one last huge effort and achieve an historic series win

"We went down to New Zealand to challenge ourselves to do something that had never been done before," he said.

"I think that's going to be the same situation, us going to South Africa against world champions.

"We understand it's a huge challenge, but we're going to embrace it and go with it."