In a nutshell
IT WAS an unspectacular match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, with the physical exchanges dominating and little creative attacking play on show. Ireland built a healthy 12-3 half-time lead, capitalising on South Africa’s poor discipline, but the Boks started the second period with aplomb. By focusing on their powerful rucking and mauling game, they were able to force Ireland into making mistakes and they never looked like losing once Ruan Pienaar scored his 45th-minute try.
The Springboks took full advantage of Jamie Heaslip’s sin-binning in the 42nd minute. The visitors had forced Ireland to infringe at a maul early in the second half and Heaslip paid the price for committing the third offence. While their captain was off, Ireland conceded ten points, which allowed the Boks to take a lead they never relinquished.
Ruan Pienaar gave his Ulster team-mates a painful reminder of why he is such a good player, doing exactly what he does week in, week out for the Irish province but this time in a South Africa jersey. He dictated the Boks’ game, particularly in the second half where he upped the tempo and scored the vital try.
Room for improvement
Both sides need to look at their attacking game as neither could pose a real threat when spreading the ball along the back-line. At least South Africa can use their physicality to pummel teams; Ireland need to take inspiration from Leinster and Ulster, who have both shown wonderful creative play in recent seasons.
Yes, Ireland have a debilitating injury list, losing several front-line names, but they need to look at their game plan. At the moment, Declan Kidney’s side are too one-dimensional and that could cost them when they face Argentina in a fortnight with vital world ranking points at stake.
Discipline should also be a concern for both these teams. The Boks’ penalty count was in double figures by half-time and while they tightened things up after the break it is sure to be something Heyneke Meyer looks at this week ahead of the Scotland Test.
In quotes – winners
South Africa scrum-half Ruan Pienaar: “We had a terrible first half and our kicking game wasn’t that great. In the second half our forwards made a huge step up. We got a couple of good drives going, kept the ball and forced them to make errors.”
In quotes – losers
Ireland coach Declan Kidney: “Once South Africa got their mauling game going, they smothered us. With the breakdown, we were unable to get quick ball in the second half.”
Ill-discipline played a big part in the game with both sides conceding 15 penalties, while the lack of clinical back play was highlighted by the fact Ireland made only two line breaks and South Africa none.
Ireland: Simon Zebo; Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy (Ronan O’Gara 75), Andrew Trimble (Fergus McFadden 58); Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray (Eoin Reddan 61); Cian Healy (David Kilcoyne 41-45), Richardt Strauss (Sean Cronin 3-10, 75), Mike Ross (Michael Bent 70), Mike McCarthy (Donncha O’Callaghan 70), Donnacha Ryan (Donncha O’Callaghan 63-67), Peter O’Mahony, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip (captain).
Pens: Sexton 4.
South Africa: Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen, Jaco Taute, Jean de Villiers (captain), Francois Hougaard; Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar; CJ van der Linder (Heinke van der Merwe 63), Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis (Patrick Cilliers 55), Eben Etzebeth (Flip van der Merwe 70), Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts (Marcell Coetzee 64), Duane Vermeulen.
Try: Pienaar. Con: Lambie. Pens: Lambie 3.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)