Ireland missing key man for Springbok clash

Jamie Heaslip (Getty Images)
Jamie Heaslip (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Although Ireland have plenty of back row depth, the absence of regular number eight Jamie Heaslip will be keenly felt against South Africa in Dublin on Saturday.

With Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, CJ Stander and Rhys Ruddock in their ranks, Ireland are still expected to field a formidable back row combination this weekend although it will be strange not to see Heaslip - a 95-Test veteran - at the base of their scrum. 

He has been out of action due to a back injury since sitting out of the final Six Nations game against England in March and later had surgery to deal with a disc issue. 

After a second operation, it was confirmed that he will be out of action while approaching his 34th birthday next month.

"You lose a huge amount of experience," Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby told the42.ie.

"You lose probably one of the most professional sportsmen that many of us would have worked with, certainly as a coach.

"He is incredibly dedicated. He has certain ways of doing things and that is to his massive advantage, in terms of getting himself right, in terms of his body. He knows what he needs to do to prepare himself to play big match for Leinster and for Ireland."

In Heaslip’s absence, Stander may start in the number eight jersey despite Leinster’s use of O’Brien in that role at times this season.

Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson are also all expected to be fit for the Springboks Test.

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England 92/4 (28 ov)
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