The Springboks were battered, bewildered and comfortably beaten … at least the Guinness is good in Dublin, writes MARK KEOHANE at the Aviva Stadium.
Where to start the analysis?
Perhaps Monday would be a better place once the match tape has been viewed again. For now I have to rely on what the eyes saw at the Aviva Stadium. And from a South African perspective it wasn’t inspiring or particularly pleasing on the eye.
First up, compliments to the Irish. They were good, without being outstanding. But on this particular night, good was still enough to secure a fourth win in Dublin from the last six Springbok visits.
I wrote earlier in the week that it wouldn’t be a shock if Ireland won, but that it would be a surprise. I did caution an Irish ambush because their team was too easily being written off.
The shock was at how easily the Irish won. They led 29-10 with two minutes to play before JP Pietersen scored. Pat Lambie’s rushed and fluffed conversion summed up a night in which the Springboks never matched the hosts in passion, intensity or precision.
Ireland were the better side on attack and in defence and they were the more intelligent in playing field position, territory and in playing the game in the right areas.
They applied the basics well and asked questions of a Bok team that simply could not be answered on the night.
The Boks, as the leadership would say afterwards, could only be as good as the opposition allowed. But that would only be telling half the story. Ireland were good, but the Boks were awful.
They failed to hold onto the ball, did not impose themselves in the contact areas and emphatically lost the tactical battle.
Jean de Villiers and the core of the match 23 were underdone in terms of not having had a game since the last-minute win against the All Blacks at Ellis Park.
De Villiers in the buildup described this as the Springboks’ most important game of the year. In that context, it was then their darkest Saturday in the year.
England, at Twickenham a week from now, becomes an even bigger occasion.
The Boks spoke of a strong scrum and good lineout, but there was very little good about the Boks. They didn’t do the hard yards and they seemed to believe the purple prose of the Irish media, who labelled the Boks the best South African team in the past 20 years and said the hosts would have no chance of winning.
I think too many in the Bok set-up, despite protests to the contrary, read too many Irish platitudes in the week.
The Boks never got out of the comfort of the pre-match warm-up. They spoke afterwards of having experienced brilliant training sessions all week. But it's what happens on match day and the Boks never matched the hosts for intent and for intensity.
One team played with manic desire. The other strutted more than it strained.
It was simply an awful night for the Boks – the worst yet in Heyneke Meyer’s tenure. It was, given what we saw in the Rugby Championship, an aberration. At least I hope it was.
With the benefit of just raw emotion, it's difficult to be accurate in what was on display at the Aviva Stadium when attempting to describe the Springboks.
What I do know is it isn’t good enough from a team with World Cup aspirations or with the ambition of being the game’s best.
Photo: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images