Ireland's Jonny Sexton makes rusty South Africa side sweat
Ireland 12 South Africa 16
Sunday 11 November 2012
South Africa left Dublin having won a game through their strength of mind that had deserted them for large parts of this game.
Earlier this week South African coach Heyneke Meyer told his players this was their last audition as he aims to formalise the group which the Springboks will take to England for the 2015 World Cup.
What was at the forefront of his mind was how his players would handle the northern hemisphere conditions such as soft pitches, wind and rain.
Today the chilly conditions were near perfect for rugby, but when Meyer's team failed to impose their trademark physicality on their hosts they threw a spat before finally discovering their old selves in the second half.
The Boks conceded 11 penalties and a yellow card in the opening half as they tried in vain to turn this contest into a slugfest. Outmuscled in contact, out-smarted at the breakdown and anaemic in the scrum this was a poor opening effort by players attempting to win over the trust of their coach.
Rookie Test forwards Mike McCarthy, named man of the match, and Chris Henry spent their time dispelling fears they would struggle to get to grips with the physical force of the Springboks and as levels of aggression wore on the visitors began to lose their cool.
First off Irish prop Cian Healy ended up shirtless after a scrap with Duane Vermeulen, next it was Peter O'Mahony and Eben Etzebeth to lead the respective handbag brigades, but it spilled over on 32 minutes when JP Pietersen was yellow carded. Seconds after Jonny Sexton's fourth penalty of the game had put Ireland 12-3 ahead the Bok wing shoulder charged Henry under the dropping kick-off and was binned after both teams piled into each other. It was prime reward for Ireland who came into this game off the back of a 60-0 loss to New Zealand in the summer and had left coach Declan Kidney's long-term in some doubt.
Henry, O'Mahony, Donncha Ryan and the South Africa-born Richardt Strauss, on Irish debut, continued to shake loose change out of their opponents at the breakdown. While full back Simon Zebo combined with Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls throughout to keep the Boks on the backfoot whenever the game was allowed to flow.
Clearly irked by their first-half showing the South Africans were back on the pitch for the second half three minutes early.
Their intent was obvious as they upped the tempo and soon Ireland were bleeding penalties - three in four minutes - and after captain Jamie Heaslip had been binned scrum-half Ruan Pienaar dived through for the game's first try, converted by Lambie. At 12-10 it was game on. South Africa had rediscovered their taste for destruction and Lambie nudged his side a point ahead on 51 minutes after O'Mahony was pinged for the fourth time in the game.
When Heinke van der Merwe worked over provincial team-mate Mike Ross in the scrum, Lambie extended the lead to four and like a dog with a blood-soaked bone the Boks then refused to let go.
With a visit to Twickenham still to come on November 24, this evidence suggest that while the Boks still have the brawn, they are lacking the brains.
Ireland: S Zebo (Munster); T Bowe (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Strauss (Leinster), M Ross (Leinster); D Ryan (Munster), M McCarthy (Connacht); P O'Mahony (Munster), C Henry (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).
Replacements: M Bent (Leinster) for Ross, 71; D O'Callaghan (Munster) for McCarthy, 71; I Henderson (Ulster) for O'Mahony, 71; E Reddan (Leinster) for Murray, 62; R O'Gara (Munster) for D'Arcy, 75; F McFadden (Leinster) for Trimble, 59
South Africa: Z Kirchner (Blue Bulls); JP Pietersen (Sharks), J Taute (Golden Lions), J de Villiers (capt, Western Province), F Hougaard (Blue Bulls); P Lambie (Sharks), R Pienaar (Ulster); CJ van der Linde (Golden Lions), A Strauss (Cheetahs), J du Plessis (Sharks); E Etzebeth (Western Province), J Kruger (Blue Bulls); F Louw (Bath), W Alberts (Sharks), D Vermeulen (Western Province).
Replacements: H van der Merwe (Leinster) for van der Linde, 63; P Cilliers (Western Province) for Du Plessis, 56; F van der Merwe (Blue Bulls) for Etzebeth, 71; M Coetzee (Sharks) for Veremeulen, 65.
Referee: W Barnes (RFU)
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