Flawed Boks pull off gritty fight-back

2012-11-12 00:00

IT was the worst of halves and the best of halves for coach Heyneke Meyer as his limp, badly behaved Springboks recovered to beat the Irish 16-12 in their rugby international in Dublin on Saturday night.

The Springboks, in their tale of two halves, lacked continuity and discipline in the first period (3-12) before out-scoring the Irish 13-0 in the second for their hard-earned win.

The first half, punctuated by Springbok error, was described by Meyer as “the worst I have ever seen”.

Losing to Ireland, he said, would have been a major setback for him and the team.

“It would have been three steps backwards for us.”

But the Springbok coach said passionate words spoken at half-time in the change-room — too harsh to repeat in public — had lifted the mood of the players and changed the momentum of the match.

“Our first half was unacceptable but the guys responded to what was said at the break. They showed a lot of character coming back and I think this win will take us forward.”

He said the players’ response to adversity was more significant than when the Boks had scored five tries in beating Australia 31-8 late in September.

“The first half was a shambles. The Irish played well, put the ball behind us and placed us under pressure. But we also gave away too many penalties [11] and we couldn’t get going.

“At nine points down we showed a lot of character to come back and I’m proud of this team. We were better tactically in the second half and I’m delighted we did not concede a try. We’ve learnt a lot from this win.”

The Springboks were disrupted by front-row problems with loosehead Beast Mtawarira withdrawing on the morning of the Test. Meyer said he did not want to makes excuses (but promptly did).

“It was a tough week. Beast was out, Gurthrö Steenkamp failed another fitness test just before the game, Heinke van der Merwe hasn’t trained with us and had to play off the bench and in the first three minutes Jannie [du Plessis] was injured and wanted to come off. We were under the sword.

“I was desperate at one point. I want us to do well, especially for the supporters back home.”

Meyer said the players had matured during the long season.

Both teams had players yellow-carded, with the Springboks losing wing JP Pietersen to an early tackle before the break while Irish captain Jamie Heaslip was sent to the cooler moments into the second half for collapsing a maul.

In contrast to the Irish, who could not add to their 12-3 tally against the 14 South Africans, the Boks turned the game on its head while Heaslip was in the sin-bin, adding 10 points with Ruan Pienaar scoring the only try of the game.

The Boks, playing a more tactical game in the second half, were more clinical, winning penalties instead of conceding them as they adapted to referee Wayne Barnes’s interpretations. They also kept making tackles and dominated the gainline and the lineout while the Irish had little answer to their rolling maul.

Ahead lie Scotland and then the major challenge against England at Twickenham. And what remains a concern is that the Springboks, on attack, still lack cohesion and continuity.

Conditions at Lansdowne Road were testing, but they should have scored more than one try against a limited Irish outfit.

See page 19 for match report

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