RG Snyman: 'We are the world champions but Ireland have used the four years to get to number one'

RG Snyman is looking forward to facing some familiar faces when the world champions clash with Ireland
©Photo by Michael Steele - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

On Saturday evening, RG Snyman and his teammates will face off against Ireland, with a win for South Africa all but securing top spot in Pool B.

The highly-anticipated meeting in Paris is arguably the fixture of the pool stages - alongside France's opener with New Zealand - and Snyman has, for the 22nd time in his 31-cap career, been named in the 'bomb squad' as part of South Africa's controversial 7-1 split on the bench.

Having performed this role for most of his international career, including five times during the Springboks' World Cup-winning campaign of 2019, this is a brief Snyman is entirely familiar with.

That sense of familiarity filters into the fixture itself with Snyman set to come up against several of his clubmates: "Facing Ireland, there's a lot of my Munster teammates that I'm playing against. Obviously playing against a lot of the Leinster guys [in the United Rugby Championship], and we're used to playing against them, so looking forward to the challenge."

Snyman is not alone, with Jean Kleyn [Munster] and Duane Vermuelen [who left Ulster this summer] also plying their trade in Ireland, whilst the close ties coaches Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus have with Munster adds an extra sub-plot.

"There are about 18 Leinster guys in the Ireland squad, so facing Leinster through the year also gives us a bit of insight into them. I think it's just knowing what's coming our way. We're really excited to face them."

Snyman signed for Munster in 2020 but tore his ACL seven minutes into his debut against Leinster in August of that year. As a result, Saturday will be the first time he faces off against Ireland, having missed their only encounter earlier in this World Cup cycle when Andy Farrell's side beat the world champions 19-16 in November 2022.

Despite aggravating the ACL injury in his third match back for Munster in October 2021, the province renewed his contract the following January, and their unwavering faith is perhaps the source of his respect for Ireland amidst the simmering tension in this week's build-up.

“It [the ACL injury] was difficult," he said. "I do have to give credit to the medical team at Munster and especially Ray McGinley who is one of the physios who was with me the whole time.

“It took some time, but from the fans’ perspective, it’s great to be part of Munster. The fanbase is incredible. For them to show such patience and stick with me is something that says a lot about their character."

On the national team, Snyman added: "What they [Ireland] did, up until now, is a credit to them. Obviously, they're number one for a reason, the brand of rugby they play, and the style. The team they've put together says a lot. These previous two games they've played [against Romania and Tonga], they carried themselves really well. Obviously, they're number one, so it's going to be a good game. It'll be a good challenge."

Nonetheless, the 6ft 9" giant of course has plenty of confidence in South Africa's chances on Saturday.

"We ticked the boxes we wanted to [against Romania] especially in terms of our defence not allowing them to get over the line was a big confidence booster for us.

"Facing the challenge that's right in front of you is the most important thing, and if you get that right, it benefits you in this competition. I guess we are the world champions still, but it's four years later and they've used the four years to get up to that number one spot.

"It's going to be a good one."