Richardt Strauss instantly endeared himself to the Irish rugby fans with his enthusiastic and word perfect rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann, but the hooker’s Ireland debut was almost over before it really got started.
A split lip just three minutes into the game threatened to end his eagerly awaited debut for his adopted country but a few stitches to the wound helped him back into the fray, where he faced his cousin Adriaan, the Springboks’ hooker.
After the match Adriaan said he was confident that Richardt would earn himself a place in the Ireland team when he left South Africa for Leinster three years ago but the adopted Irishman admitted to suffering doubts at many points along the journey.
“Obviously it was always in the back of my mind to maybe come here if things went well but when I got over here you don’t really realise the quality of players that are over here, and I had to sit on the couch and watch the lads play and think this is going to be really tough and not as easy as people might think.
“I’ve just been fortunate enough that everything worked out for me, and Rory (Best) getting injured and me getting the opportunity – one guy’s difficulty is another guy’s opportunity,” Strauss told the Irish Examiner.
The 26 year old was praised for his hearty prematch singing of the national anthem, so it is surprising to discover that he only learned the words last week as he dared try until he was certain of his place in the team.
“I actually thought of it a while back but I thought I don’t want to be arrogant and jinx the whole thing so I thought I’ll do it the first week we got into camp and then got overcome with all the new detail and left it off until last week.
“I started learning it off then, to be honest, and it was actually quite easy. I wouldn’t say I’m the best singer in the world, so I tried to keep it as private as possible.”
His emotion at winning his first cap for his adopted country came as a surprise to him, he revealed.
“To be honest I’m really not a guy who really gets quite emotional, I always get fired up when people get emotional and start crying and stuff and I never thought it was going to happen to me.
“And as we ran onto the pitch I found myself getting really emotional and thought, ‘get yourself together, it’s not the time to get over-emotional now’ and after a couple of seconds on the pitch I actually calmed down and I was all right.”
However Strauss isn’t satisfied with winning a single cap nor with his performance in the green jersey. He believes that he can and needs to improve if he is to claim that Irish shirt as his own.
“You’re never happy with everything you did. Obviously there’s some good stuff, but you’re always looking at the stuff you didn’t do right. For me, there’s loads of breakdown work I’d like to work on. A couple of line-outs didn’t go as planned too so that’s something we’ll have a look at and try to sort out.
“You always have to learn. The day you stop learning is the day you have to hang up your boots. Whenever you think you’ve got it all, that’s when you’re going to get hurt. I think the day when a player thinks he has it all is the day when he has to walk out the door.”