Finlay Bealham is ready to fight fire with fire when Connacht square up against the DHL Stormers’ Springbok pack in Cape Town on Saturday.
The 30-Test tighthead prop featured prominently at the start of Ireland’s 2023 Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign, and has been a vital cog in the Connacht engine room en route to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoffs.
On Saturday he will lock horns with Springbok loosehead and Stormers skipper Steven Kitshoff in a blockbuster URC semi-final at Cape Town Stadium.
Kitshoff packs down with fellow World Cup winner Frans Malherbe and the explosive Joseph Dweba, as part of a formidable tight five for the defending URC champions.
Speaking in a Connacht media conference about the prospect, the Australian-born Bealham said: “They’re flooded with Springboks all over the pitch, and have a full Springbok front row. They love to scrum, they love to maul and it’s a big weapon for them. It’s going to be incredibly physical.
“A player like Kitshoff is a world-class operator, Malherbe as well. So they’re going to back themselves and right they should, they’re an unbelievable unit.
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“They’re going to come at us in that area … we have to be proper on it in the set piece. But also have electric backs, so it’s going to be physical, and it’s going to be fast.”
However, Bealham is confident that Connacht can match them: “We’ve been going really well in the scrums this year and it’s going to be a really good challenge, and one of the biggest of the year. We have full faith in what we’ve been doing and looking forward to it.
“I’d prefer to scrum against a pack like the Stormers because they come straight for you, you’ve got to meet fire with fire and there won’t be too much messing around.”
Lock Niall Murray added: “They’re going to bring enormous physicality all around the park and at scrum and maul time, and bring brains at lineout time and in open field, so we’re going to have to bring all our weapons and unleash them on game day.”
Ireland will face the Boks in Pool B of the Rugby World Cup in four months’ time, and Bealham also spoke about the value of taking on an SA team that wields a strong scrum in the build up to the global spectacle.
“The South Africans love their scrummaging, it’s their bread and butter for them,” he added. “They have their own style and it’s good to get a taste of that at club level so it’s not that massive a shock when you play them at international level.”
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