CJ Stander says Ireland still have plenty in the tank and haven’t reached the standards they set in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations on their June tour of Australia.
Joe Schmidt’s men took the 2018 Championship by storm, clinching the third-ever Grand Slam with a thrilling blend of experience and youth.
Their historic campaign is now on the cusp of producing a first series win Down Under since 1979, a 26-21 win in Melbourne forcing a deciding third test.
Stander sees his side as capable of rounding off their season with series victory in Sydney on Saturday – as long as certain key improvements are made.
“We’re close to where we were performing during the NatWest 6 Nations, but not there yet,” said the flanker.
“I think there were a few chances that we’ve left on the pitch: lost balls, set pieces that we don’t get the ball we wanted, you know?
“In the first test (18-9 defeat in Brisbane) we were almost waiting for Australia to do what they wanted to do in attack.
“So I think there’s a fair bit left in us to go out there and play the way we want to play – as we did during the NatWest 6 Nations.”
A big reason for Ireland’s second-test turnaround was prop Tadh Furlong returning to the side.
Furlong was a key contributor to the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations triumph: making 33 carries and 26 tackles in his four starts, missing none in the process.
Stander, 28, praised the impact of Furlong in transforming Ireland’s fortunes up front.
“The difference in performances was the way we controlled the game in the beginning,” he said.
“Our set-piece was a lot better and that gave us front foot for the backs on the ball.
“Tadh came in, did an unbelievable job and played man-of-the-match rugby from the start.
“That’s what we needed from all of the players and I think everyone stepped up.”