Rugby Union: Trial by Terblanche

South Africa 37 Ireland 13
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The Independent Online
STEFAN TERBLANCHE, a speedster in the classic mould of South African wings, destroyed brave Ireland with four tries in the first Test at Bloemfontein.

It was by any standards an extraordinary debut by Terblanche, who opened his account with his first touch of the ball, but it was another three blistering tries in the second half which killed off the Irish. They simply couldn't put a finger on the elegant, gazelle-like right-wing.

Ironically, this was the best performance of the tour by Ireland and they more than disconcerted the world champions. But all the good work, particularly by their pack, came to nothing as Terblanche wrote himself into the South African record books as the first man to score four tries on his debut.

The Irish must have feared the forecasters were correct in predicting a rout when, after only two minutes, their defence was stretched to breaking point by a simple Springbok build-up and a whiplash finish by Terblanche.

The Boland wing had the easiest of tasks to run in the try but his speed and the flourish of the finish seemed ominous indeed. Gaffie du Toit's conversion dented confidence even further.

But Ireland have never been a country to take defeat lying down, no shirkers even against the odds. With plenty of determination they set about the task of retrieval, ruffling more than a few feathers as they tore into the world champions.

So robust was their response, in fact, that du Toit needed treatment for a head injury and Gary Teichmann, the South African captain, complained bitterly to the English referee, Ed Morrison, that Keith Wood had punched him.

Wood got a ticking off and a yellow card, but if the Springboks thought that would quell the fire they were badly mistaken. An Eric Elwood penalty narrowed the lead and then in the 20th minute the crowd were stunned by a brilliant Irish score. Elwood lofted a brilliant up-and-under, which dropped between the uprights and the South African full-back Percy Montgomery. A moment's hesitation, probably fearing he would collide with the woodwork, was fateful for Montgomery as Ireland's new cap, Justin Bishop, with no such worries, tore in, leapt up, caught the ball and plunged over.

Elwood converted and the unbelievable had happened. Ireland were in front, and deservedly so. The only sadness for their huge first-half effort was that they should concede far too many penalties, two of which du Toit kicked to restore the badly shaken Boks' lead.

What the Irish weren't to know then was that Terblanche, the man who had started their misery, was to have an even bigger say in the second half.

The dreams of an upset dissolved as Terblanche took them apart with awe- inspiring ease. It was no comfort to the Irish that the new star in southern hemisphere rugby is going to inflict a lot of damage on many other sides as his career unfolds.

South Africa: P Montgomery; S Terblanche, A Snyman, P Muller, P Rossouw; G du Toit, J van der Westhuizen; O le Roux, J Dalton, A Garvey, K Otto, M Andrews, J Erasmus, A Venter, G Teichman (capt).

Ireland: C O'Shea; J Bishop, K Maggs M McCall, D Hickie; E Elwood, C McGuinness; J Fitzpatrick, K Wood, P Wallace, M O'Kelly, P Johns (capt), D O'Cunneagain, A Ward, V Costello.

Referee: E Morrison (England).