An understrength Ireland beat the Springboks 29-15 in Dublin on Saturday, reports SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Irish were missing eight of the 23 players selected for their final Six Nations match against France, but were still too good for a rusty, error-ridden Springbok side that suffered their first loss in the northern hemisphere under Heyneke Meyer.
The Boks dominated the scrums and lineouts, and had most of the ball, with Ireland having to make twice as many tackles. But the hosts did more with the possession they had, and made far fewer mistakes.
The Springboks had a frustrating first half and were unable to rectify things in the second.
Apart from an early scrum, which saw Jannie du Plessis penalised, the Boks took charge up front, with Ireland loosehead Jack McGrath conceding two first-half penalties. On both occasions, the Boks opted to kick for the corner, instead of at goal, and set up lineout driving mauls. First, they lost possession when they didn't listen to referee Romain Poite's call to 'use it', then Francois Hougaard knocked on after a good counter-maul from the Irish.
Handré Pollard had missed his first shot at goal, but the Boks should have taken the points when they were on offer. Jean de Villiers did that three minutes before the break, with Pollard's penalty making it 6-3, following two earlier Jonny Sexton penalties.
The Boks won all of their lineout ball in the first half and stole four of Ireland's. They also showed good attacking intent with ball in hand, but handling errors cost them dearly. Hougaard couldn't control the ball at the back of a ruck 2m out from the Ireland tryline, and Jan Serfontein spilt Pollard's switch pass after a good break from Willie le Roux. The Bok fullback was excellent under the high ball in the first half and kicked well out of hand.
South Africa would have been desperate to score first in the second half, but it was Ireland who extended their lead to 10 points when Rhys Ruddock, who had been rushed into the starting XV just before kick-off, broke away from a lineout driving maul for his first Test try.
That saw the introduction of Schalk Burger after just 47 minutes as Meyer sought inspiration from the bench, with Adriaan Strauss, JP Pietersen and Cobus Reinach following soon after.
The Bok scrum continued to impress, winning a tighthead, as did the lineout. After Pollard had kicked a penalty to the corner, the Boks set up a lineout driving maul from which Marcell Coetzee scored a converted try. At last, the visitors had been able to turn pressure into points.
But Sexton responded with his third penalty, before Adriaan Strauss was yellow-carded by Poite for making contact with Rob Kearney in the air.
While Strauss was off, Sexton kicked another penalty and Tommy Bowe collected Conor Murray's kick to score a try that secured the Six Nations champions a prized southern hemisphere scalp.
JP Pietersen would score a last-minute try but it was small consolation for the outgunned Boks.
Springboks – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, JP Pietersen. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalty: Pollard.
Ireland – Tries: Rhys Ruddock, Tommy Bowe. Conversions: Jonny Sexton (2). Penalties: Sexton (4), Ian Madigan.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 JP Pietersen.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Rhys Ruddock, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones.
Photo: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images