Despite 13 injuries to their side the Springboks were as physical as ever in the scrum, with Tony Buckley having a terrible time at the hands of Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira.
Matfield and Botha also worked their magic in the lineout, and Matfield spoke of how much Ireland were missing injured Paul O’Connell to run that aspect of their game.
Tomas O’Leary was also missed at scrum-half, with Reddan struggling to provide quick ball. His pass was also intercepted by Juan Smith who scored South Africa’s first try. It’s notable that Ireland’s performance picked up considerably when O’Gara and Stringer came on with 14 minutes to play – Ireland’s two tries were scored in this time.
Ultimately Ireland’s mistakes cost them the game – they were always chasing the game, and left themselves too much to do to catch the Springboks.
If Ireland had problems with their performance on the pitch today it was nothing compared to what was happening off it. Just 35,517 turned out for today’s game thanks to a poor ticketing strategy by the IRFU (the ground holds 51,000) and those who were there were deathly quiet for 70 minutes. They picked up at the end along with Ireland’s performance, but O’Gara admitted after the game that they’d missed the crowd, and had to find a way to get them going and supporting the team.
Ireland marked the occasion of their first Test at the Aviva Stadium by wearing a commemorative shirt, but they kept ripping and referee Nigel Owens asked a few players to change them in the first half. The whole team then came on in their normal home shirts for the second half.
Declan Kidney now has the difficult task of choosing a team for next week’s game against Samoa. You would think that some key players will be rested, but Ireland can’t afford another loss, especially before playing the All Blacks on 20 November.
Who would you pick for next week’s game? What do you think of the new Aviva Stadium?
Ireland (6) 21
Tries: Bowe, Kearney Cons: O’Gara Pens: Sexton 3
South Africa (13) 23
Tries: Smith, Aplon Cons: Steyn, Lambie Pens: Steyn 3 Sin bin: Habana (76)
Ireland: Kearney (Earls 75); Bowe, B O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Fitzgerald; Sexton (O’Gara 66), Reddan (Stringer 66); Healy, Best, Buckley (Court 51), O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll (Ryan 63), Ferris, D. Wallace, Heaslip
Not used: Cronin, Leamy
South Africa: Aplon; Basson, Kirchner, de Villiers (Jacobs 67), Habana; M Steyn (Lambie 59), Pienaar; Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis (van der Linde 71), Botha (van der Merwe 71), Matfield, Stegmann (Daniel 66), Smith, Spies
Not Used: Ralepelle, Hougaard
Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales)