Springboks Ireland

Ireland celebrate against the Springboks last year. Image by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP

How many Ireland players would actually start for Springboks?

Are Ireland currently a better team than the Springboks? One former player believes so, but how many of their stars would make a Bok team?

Springboks Ireland

Ireland celebrate against the Springboks last year. Image by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP

Earlier this week, former British & Irish Lions and Wales legend Sam Warburton stirred up an interesting debate when he suggested Ireland are a ‘more complete’ team than the Springboks.

Last year the Springboks went on to claim back-to-back World Cup titles, while Ireland were knocked out of the global tournament at the quarter-final stage despite coming into the global showpiece as the No 1-ranked side. By the of the tournament, South Africa were back at the summit of the world rankings.

However, Ireland have begun drawing closer after making an impressive start to the Six Nations, and if they go on to achieve the Grand Slam, many might also suggest they should be viewed as the best side in the world.

Of course, the Springboks will have something to say about that when they return to action in the middle of year, notably with two games scheduled against none other than Ireland in July.

To take this debate one step further, it does make for an interesting exercise to consider how many Ireland players would actually make a Springbok team in a hypothetical scenario.

Rugby is obviously a team game and Ireland are certainly greater than the sum of their parts, but I truly can’t see many Irish players making a Springbok XV.

How many Ireland players would actually start for Springboks?

Up front, Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter are an incredible front row, but would any of them really oust the Springboks’ scrum juggernauts? I doubt it.

There’s no way anyone would displace Eben Etzebeth at No 4, but maybe a 50-50 case could be made for Tadhg Beirne to partner with him in the second row.

Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit are irreplaceable in the Springbok back row, but Duane Vermeulen has now retired. For Ireland, Peter O’Mahony is a beast, but I could only see him making a Bok team if he were able to be shifted to No 8.

In the backline, Ireland have a world-class centre in Bundee Aki. However, does he really offer all that much more than Damian de Allende? Doubt it! Similarly, Aki’s centre partner Robbie Henshaw is pure class, but between Lukhanyo Am and Jesse Kriel, I doubt he’d crack the nod for a Bok XV.

in fact, the only Ireland back I could see perhaps sneaking into the Springbok starting line-up is the electric James Lowe. Again, though, this is far from clear cut.

Final verdict

In my opinion, just two or three Ireland stars might make a Springbok starting XV. Call me bias, perhaps, but I just can’t see it any other way.

*Let us know in the comments section at the end of this article if you feel differently.

The Ireland team that faced Wales last weekend:

Ireland: 15 Ciaran Frawley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Oli Jager, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Jack Conan, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Stuart McCloskey.