Cape Town – He is just 22-years-old and has just three Test caps to his name, but Irish lock Ultan Dillane does not view his side’s tour of South Africa as “daunting” at all.
“It’s more exciting than anything. It’s our first time over here in 12 years so we’re looking forward to a big challenge,” he said from the Irish team hotel in Cape Town on Tuesday.
The last time the Irish toured South Africa was in 2004 – they lost the series 2-0 – and they have never won in South Africa in seven attempts.
Throw in the fact that they arrived in South Africa without a number of key, injured names, and the task at hand becomes even greater for the visitors.
Perhaps it is the natural confidence that generally accompanies youth, but Dillane doesn’t seem overly perturbed at the prospect of facing names like Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager.
“I definitely have plenty of respect for him,” Dillane said of Etzebeth.
“I’m excited to play against the guy.”
Dillane’s three caps all came off the bench in this year’s Six Nations, but depsite Ireland finishing a disappointing third, the second-rower says the camp is quietly optimistic.
“We want to pick up from where we left off,” he said.
“It might not have gone perfectly throughout (the Six Nations) but it surely finished strong and we got that third place finish. We’re trying to take a step forward from here and no steps back.
“Pushing off from the Six Nations is where most of the confidence comes from because we’ve seen what we can do and our performance hasn’t been perfect, but training is really coming across nicely.”
And, if the rugby doesn’t go according to plan, at least there’s Africa.
“It’s a gorgeous place. We’re excited to get out and get up Table Mountain and I think we’re going to get on a helicopter tomorrow (Wednesday) and go shark cage diving to just take our minds off everything,” said Dillane.
“The Boks are a great side. They have plenty of experience in there with Vermeulen, Louw, Mtawarira and Etzebeth … we’re really buzzing about it.”
The first Test takes place at Newlands on Saturday. Kick-off is at 17:00.