JOE SCHMIDT USED the word ‘intelligence’ throughout his post-match press conference at the Aviva Stadium, pushing credit onto his players for their show of mental skill and strong decision-making in the 29-15 win over South Africa this evening.
That same adjective succinctly describes what the Kiwi coach has brought to the Ireland set-up since last year.
While the build-up to this game was dominated by discussion around the lengthy injury list Schmidt had to deal with, the man himself simply remained undistracted and plotted out the perfect game plan to stun the Springboks.
“It’s funny – I didn’t mention the injuries once,” said Schmidt at the Aviva Stadium. “I think I was asked about them a lot, so I responded to questions. But never did we say that injuries were going to compromise what we were trying to do.
“The spine probably slipped a couple of discs with Chris Henry and Rory Best coming out, but at the same time we had our nine-ten axis, and I thought they were superb today. They gave us the field position, they gave us the intelligent kicking game that we needed.”
Indeed, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton epitomised the excellence of the Irish tactics, which wonderfully picked out South African weaknesses at crucial times.
Schmidt was pleased with Henshaw’s ability to make yards with ball in hand. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Schmidt name-checked Paul O’Connell, Devin Toner and Mike Ross as crucial components of the “spine” too, underlining the fact that the tighthead prop put in a 73-minute shift after a month on the sidelines.
Les Kiss deserves much credit too, as Ireland’s first-half defence denied the Boks the try that their dominance of possession and territory seemed to be suggesting was inevitable.
“I don’t think that you can ask for too much more from a courage perspective,” said Schmidt. “I felt that defensively in that first half, the amount of effort and endeavour that the players demonstrated was superb.