Ireland v South Africa head-to-head: Andrew Porter v Frans Malherbe

Ireland’s loosehead and the Springboks’ tighthead are modern props will all-rounds games

Andrew Porter (Ireland)

Position: Loosehead prop

Age: 26

Height: 6′1″


Weight: 114 kgs (17st 11lbs)

Caps: 46

Points: 20

Why he is so important? It is his athletic ability and power, highlighted in the two tries from close range against New Zealand, that defines him as a player, one that brings so many qualities away from his basic, position-specific duties. His ability over the ball at the breakdown in getting turnovers or forcing penalties is another significant plus for the team. But ultimately the challenge for him is to help ensure that Ireland get the scrum platform for their launch plays and is an immovable object when the heat comes on. His return to loosehead has allowed him to have a bigger influence in the loose.

Quote unquote: “I know it’s not just any other game because you are facing the world champions, but you have to simplify things a small bit and not over-think. Just back yourself, back everything you have done in training and come back to the messages the coaches have given us. It just comes down to grit and determination at the end of it. They are world champions for a reason but it’s just about putting yourself out there, relishing the challenge.”

Frans Malherbe (South Africa)

Position: Tighthead prop

Age: 31

Height: 6′3″

Weight: 125 kgs (19st 9lbs)

Caps: 54

Points: 5

Why he is so important? There is a reason why former All Black Carl Hayman was reported to be among the highest paid players in world rugby during his time at Toulon as it recognised the importance of a tighthead prop to a team. Malherbe is one of the best in world rugby, powerful at scrum and maul. While Jacques Nienaber rotates players at loosehead and hooker, he does so much less when it comes to his preferred tighthead. Malherbe is far from just a set-piece automaton, he can play rugby, carrying, running, and tackling as befits the modern prop, without any compromising of his ability to excel in those basic duties.

Quote unquote: “Well if a prop plays well in the loose and he can’t scrum, I don’t think he’ll get picked. That’s the first and most important thing, in my opinion. Obviously, you’re going to get scrums where you will not be dominant and we’re not going forward and the other pack wins. That’s going to happen. But I mean, the emphasis must be on your first job, your job that’s specifically for you.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer