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South Africa-born Ireland hooker Rob Herring insists there will be no split loyalties among his family and friends when his side face the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup in Paris.
Andy Farrell’s men are seeking to secure a quarter-final spot with victory over the defending champions on Saturday evening following bonus-point wins over Romania and Tonga.
Herring’s mother and two of his three sisters have travelled from Cape Town for the tournament, while a number of his friends will be at Stade de France for the standout fixture in Pool B.
The 33-year-old Ulster player has twice before lined up against his native country – Dublin victories in 2017 and last November – but will do so on the biggest stage for the first time.
And he is in no doubt about where his relatives’ allegiances lie.
“They’re all supporting Ireland,” Herring told the PA news agency.
“All of my friends that are coming over and my family, they’re all in Irish jerseys so there will be no divided support. They will be fully behind us.
“It will be great. I’ve played against them a few times now and it’s always a good battle.
“I just want to be a part of the squad, contribute any way I can. It will be a good atmosphere, we’ll have our Irish fans there in full force.
“Every week we think we need to step things up and it’s going to be like that going into the long run of the competition. We’ll keep getting better and it will be another big challenge for us.”
Herring, who qualified for Ireland through a grandfather from Belfast, missed out on selection for the World Cup in 2015 and 2019.
He is already making up for lost time, having claimed tries in the 82-8 opening-weekend win over Romania and Saturday’s 59-16 success over Tonga.
“I keep saying to myself, I’ve got to enjoy these moments,” he said.
“I’ve missed out before and I’ve worked so hard to be here over the last four years so I’m going to put in big performances when I get the opportunity and other than that I’m ready to take it all in and enjoy it.
“This group of boys, we love playing for each other so it’s a great team to be a part of and hopefully we’re going to go into the deep end of the comp.”
Herring’s rival hooker Dan Sheehan could return to contention for the South Africa showdown.
The 25-year-old has been sidelined since sustaining a foot injury in last month’s warm-up win over England but Ireland’s coaching staff are confident he will be available.
Back-rower Jack Conan (foot) and prop Finlay Bealham, who was forced off by a head knock against Tonga, will also be assessed ahead of the visit to the French capital.
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