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Ireland will not dwell on South Africa frustrations – Ronan Kelleher

The Springboks won the opening Test 27-20.

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Hooker Ronan Kelleher insists Ireland are not dwelling on the frustrations of their first Test defeat to South Africa as he prepares to start Saturday’s series finale in Durban.

The back-to-back Six Nations champions thought they had drawn level during a tight opening encounter against the Springboks in Pretoria through a breakaway try from James Lowe.

But the second-half score was ruled out on review due to Kelleher, who was on in place of the injured Dan Sheehan, playing the ball while on the ground at the turnover.

Ireland wing James Lowe
Ireland wing James Lowe endured a frustrating evening in Pretoria (Adam Davy/PA)

With Sheehan now unavailable because of his knee issue, understudy Kelleher is expected to take on the number two jersey and feels confident about salvaging a drawn series following last weekend’s 27-20 loss to the world champions.

“It’s tough in the heat of the moment really,” he told reporters, referring to his role in the disallowed try.

“I kind of went in trying to pump the ball backwards and obviously it is those fine, fine margins in Test matches that decide things and unfortunately we came at the wrong side of it.

“But we’re not dwelling on that. We are looking to control what we can control, I suppose, and to leave all that aside. We have to just get better ourselves throughout the whole game.

“We’re very confident. It was more about the little, fine details that we’re gonna have to try and fix to try to change the outcome of some of the moments from the previous game.”

Head coach Andy Farrell will be forced into at least two changes to his starting XV, with Craig Casey’s concussion meaning veteran scrum-half Conor Murray is likely to join Kelleher in being recalled.

The disappointment of Lowe’s effort being chalked off was compounded by the same player gifting Cheslin Kolbe a try as the Springboks regained control in the aftermath of Casey’s premature departure.

“Obviously there was a time in the game where it went well and maybe at times it dropped off a touch,” said Kelleher.

Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan
Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan has been ruled out of the second Test against South Africa (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s just about nit-picking through those little details we might have gotten wrong or we weren’t accurate with and try to right those wrongs this weekend.

“We’ve kind of turned the page. We are all looking forward to this weekend.”

Kelleher was Ireland’s first-choice hooker until being surpassed by Sheehan after suffering a shoulder injury during the 2022 Six Nations.

The 26-year-old, who is competing with Ulster’s Rob Herring and Connacht’s Dave Heffernan for a starting role, sympathised with his Leinster team-mate.

“He’ll be a big loss but there’s competition in the squad and we have to make sure we do our job and make sure that we put our best foot forward and make sure we leave the team in a good place,” Kelleher said of Sheehan.

“You never want to see a team-mate injured or hurt or anything like that. So, I wouldn’t say bittersweet at all, it is kind of unfortunate, that’s sport.

“We have to deal with that as a group and move on quickly.”

Meanwhile, Ireland’s final group match of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship against Australia was cancelled because of heavy rain in Cape Town.

With each team receiving two points, Willie Faloon’s side progress to the semi-finals as Group B winners.

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