No match for Irish defence

2014-11-10 00:00

AFTER beating the All Blacks in their final Rugby Championship clash last month, the Springboks went into the Northern Hemisphere tour looking for a grand slam ahead of the looming World Cup in England next year.

However, they were thoroughly shown up by a spirited Irish side on Saturday, losing 29-15 in Dublin.

Losing the first match on tour is far from ideal but what is more worrying is the backward steps the Boks have taken after finishing the Rugby Championship on a high.

Although they were not completely outclassed and their set piece was strong (take a bow Jannie du Plessis), some glaring errors led to a long and tough day at the Aviva Stadium. Before we take the Bok performance apart, mention must be made of how well the Irish executed their game plan.

Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton earned himself a Man of the Match award for the way he controlled the game. Perhaps playing second fiddle to Ronan O’Gara for so many years rubbed off on Sexton, as his tactical kicking turned the Boks, and spoilt any momentum and territory that the visitors had worked for.

Sexton’s performance was followed up by an outstanding defensive effort from his team-mates. The Boks couldn’t string phases together due to the Irish defence that often forced flyhalf Handré Pollard to take the contact, stifling his outside backs. With runners often isolated, the Boks struggled to get quick ball and handling errors made matters worse. That made life considerably difficult for scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, who really struggled on Saturday. Without clean, quick ball the pressure built, and Hougaard made a number of tactical and fundamental errors.

On a positive note, the Springbok pack looked good in the first half, and their scrum has come on leaps and bounds. With ascendancy at both the scrum and the lineouts, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer admitted that the loss came down to poor execution and decision making.

“It’s a strange game because we really scrummed well and our lineouts were good, but we couldn’t get the maul working in the beginning and end,” Meyer said. “The main thing is that we couldn’t hold onto the ball. I thought it was on at certain stages but knowing their defence and knowing a guy like Les Kiss and having coached with him, I know you’re not going to break them down by having the ball for two or three phases, especially away from home and in these conditions.”

That statement rings true and the Boks couldn’t build the kind of phases that their nemesis, the All Blacks, managed to do in their win over England earlier on Saturday.

That sets the scene for next week’s clash, where South Africa meets England. Both teams will be smarting from their losses and will be looking for improved performances.

The match is huge for the Boks, who will definitely want a win over the World Cup hosts at Twickenham to have the same kind of mental edge that Jake White’s side did going into the 2007 showpiece, having beaten England in their second meeting at the end-of-year tour in late 2006.


Ireland 29 (6) – Tries: Rhys

Ruddock, Tommy Bowe;

Conversions: Jonathan Sexton (2); Penalties: Jonathan Sexton (4),

Ian Madigan (1).

South Africa 15 (3) – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, JP Pietersen;

Conversion: Handre Pollard (1);

Penalty: Handre Pollard (1).

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