It means nothing – Mike Catt not interested in South Africa comments on Ireland

The Springboks camp have accused the Irish of being “arrogant”.

Mike Catt is hoping for a victorious exit from his Ireland role
Mike Catt is hoping for a victorious exit from his Ireland role (Mike Egerton/PA)

Ireland assistant coach Mike Catt dismissed the significance of potentially provocative comments from the South Africa camp ahead of next month’s tantalising two-match series.

Springboks trio Eben Etzebeth, Damian de Allende and Cheslin Kolbe are among those to have stoked the flames of a growing rivalry between the world’s two top-ranked sides since last year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

Ireland are due to fly to Johannesburg on Tuesday ahead of facing the world champions on July 6 in Pretoria and seven days later in Durban.

“People can say what they want. It means nothing to us. It’s something we don’t particularly worry about,” South Africa-born attack coach Catt told reporters.

“Let them keep talking. It’s not a problem. It doesn’t fuel anything. It doesn’t make it any or worse. We know exactly what we need to do to go down there and be successful.”

Ireland have won the past three meetings between the two nations and five of the last seven.

Former Munster centre De Allende said the Springboks felt “disrespected” by heavy media criticism after a crushing 38-3 defeat in Dublin in 2017.

Lock Etzebeth branded Andy Farrell’s players “arrogant” for their behaviour following September’s 13-8 World Cup pool-stage victory in Paris.

Eben Etzebeth labelled Ireland ‘arrogant’
Eben Etzebeth labelled Ireland ‘arrogant’ (Adam Davy/PA)

While South Africa recovered from that Stade de France defeat to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, Ireland suffered a familiar quarter-final exit, losing 28-24 to eventual runners-up New Zealand.

“The rivalry’s been good, that’s what you want at Test level, it’s why you play the game,” continued Catt.

“We’ve been pretty successful over the past three times we’ve played them, they’re champing at the bit.

“There’s been a lot said in the press and this and that. It’s getting rid of all the white noise. What’s important for us is to put in a hell of a performance, and go and challenge to win a series down in South Africa.

“It’s healthy, you want that rivalry. You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.”

Catt, who will leave his role following the tour, confirmed Ireland have no fresh injury concerns in their 35-man squad after Jamison Gibson-Park was last week ruled out with a hamstring injury.

While Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks warmed up for the series with a 41-13 win over Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, the Irish have not played since retaining the Guinness Six Nations title in March.

“It’s exciting to go and challenge yourself against the best in the world,” said Catt.

“That’s the opportunity these guys have got. Hopefully we can go make the most of it.”