Keith Earls expects Ireland to end up “battered” by South Africa’s physicality, even if Joe Schmidt’s men defeat the Springboks.
Munster wing Earls predicted another bruising encounter against South Africa, when Ireland open their autumn Test series at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The 30-year-old insists the Springboks have turned the corner from the side that lost all three autumn internationals this time last year.
The Boks lost to Wales, Italy and England last November, but hit back with a 3-0 series win over France in June – and shook off a 57-0 hammering by New Zealand to push the All Blacks to the edge in a 25-24 defeat in their last Test outing.
“You always end up battered playing against them,” said Earls of the Springboks.
“The physicality is the usual with them. We played against them three times in 2016, so we know what to expect.
“And they are on the up. They had some good performances in the Rugby Championship.
“I know New Zealand beat them well but that happens to a lot of us.
“They have some exciting players coming through, they have expanded their game a lot, they can be physical but they have lots of pace out wide and they can ball play.”
Head coach Schmidt has pitched a clutch of new faces into the Ireland squad for the November series, and Earls admitted feeling surprised to find himself as the elder statesman.
“There’s a lot of new faces, but thankfully I’d been on tour with a few lads over the summer before the Lions boys came back getting used to the lads,” said Earls, who has racked up 62 caps since his 2008 Test debut.
“It’s where I am in my career, I am the older fella, it’s quite bizarre. The young fellas are keeping us on our toes.
“Rather than us asking all the questions they are coming to us and asking questions on bits of detail.
“Any time you get called into an Irish squad or to play for Ireland, it’s brilliant.
“I came into it when I was a young lad, I’m in the 60s with caps now and you still get excited with match week and you still get nervous about whether you get selected. It’s a brilliant time and hopefully I’ll get another opportunity.”