Munster lock Donnacha Ryan insists the lessons learned from the winless tour of New Zealand in the summer will make Ireland stronger in the autumn internationals.
The Emerald Isle lost all three Tests against the World Cup winners, including a humbling 60-0 defeat in Hamilton in June.
Ryan, who has made three RaboDirect PRO12 appearances this season, admits that game in particular offered a sobering reminder of what it takes to perform against the world’s best and with South Africa looming on Saturday he’s called for a response.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: “One game can make or break you. The last game we played in New Zealand, there's no two ways about it that the week before we all thought we could have made it.
“After that we were broken men for four weeks. There was a lot of hurt there and you bring it with you.
“But sport is the best leveller of all, especially in rugby. If a guy is getting too big for his boots you can do him.”
Ryan, who will make his 22nd appearance for Ireland against the Springboks at Lansdowne Road, claims he will never take his international place for granted.
With Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan entering the twilight of their careersthe Tipperary-born front row seemingly has a position sewn up, but he insists you can never rest on your laurels.
He added: “In my first year of rugby I made the Munster youths and the Irish youths and I started believing I was very good.
“I went into St Munchin's (College) a year later. It's a very lonely place when lads think you're too big for your boots. It was a great lesson for me and I'll never forget it.
“It was more of a case of where I thought I was better than I actually was. I've no problem saying that.
“At that age when you come from a small town you actually believe it when people are telling you you're great.
“I was only 17 at the time and so was very gullible. When it comes too thick and fast you start thinking you could be that good.
“It was a great learning experience and I wouldn't be here if I hadn't had that.”