Brian O'Driscoll has scoffed at suggestions South Africa are a team in decline as Ireland target the prized scalp of the world champions at Croke Park on Saturday.
The Springboks' outstanding season is in danger of ending with a whimper having slumped to defeats by France, Leicester and Saracens on their European tour.
Victory against Italy on Saturday has been their solitary success and they have been replaced by New Zealand at the summit of the world rankings.
It is a far cry from an honour-laden summer that saw them edge the Lions across three enthralling Tests and seize their first Tri-Nations title since 2004.
Ireland, virtually at full strength and invigorated by their RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam success, will have few better opportunities to upset the injury-struck Springboks.
But O'Driscoll predicts South Africa will be determined to finish an exhausting campaign on a triumphant note.
"No, South Africa are not a team in decline," said the Lions and Leinster centre.
"That's just sections of the media trying to wind the South Africans up a little bit, but it's not doing us any favours!
"They're the reigning world champions, have beaten the Lions and won the Tri-Nations.
"They lost to France - boo hoo! They won't be crying about it, they'll be looking to put it right against us in the last game of what's been a great season for them.
"If we get the upper hand we'll say we've beaten a very strong South African team."
With so many Irishmen contributing towards a brutal and compelling Lions tour - 10 of them won caps with all but the injured Luke Fitzgerald in the 22 for Saturday - South Africa's first visit to Croke Park has taken on the guise of a grudge match.
"Is there animosity? No," said the Ireland captain, who will be winning his 96th Ireland cap on Saturday.
"I'm sure we'll see a competitive edge as we always do when we face South Africa but there will certainly be no leftovers from the tour.
"That's done and dusted and is behind us. We move on and look to the next big game and that's South Africa.
"What a huge challenge it is to play the reigning world and Tri-Nations champions at Croke Park for the first time. It will be a special occasion.
"We give the same respect to every team and South Africa are no different.
"There will be excitement because they are world champions. Public perception is that they'll be the biggest of the three games.
"We just see it as another Test match and opportunity to get one over the leading teams in the world."