White's resurgent Springboks bring Ireland back to earth

South Africa 31 Ireland 17
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The Independent Online

Where to for Ireland this week, after so dreadfully disappointing a Test defeat to Jake White's makeshift new Springbok side on Saturday?

Where to for Ireland this week, after so dreadfully disappointing a Test defeat to Jake White's makeshift new Springbok side on Saturday?

If the extent of the task confronting White's side before the match had been immense, the pressure now is heaped upon the shoulders of his Irish counterpart, Eddie O'Sullivan.

Ireland have five days to salvage something from a tour which had promised to cement their credentials for a place in world rugby's élite. For most of the time at Vodacom Park, they looked a tired, lethargic outfit well below its best. Preparing for a match at altitude from a base at sea level in Cape Town always looked a risky strategy. It looks to have come home to haunt Ireland.

They may be a far better side than they ever began to show to the 40,000 crowd in the Free State, but there was an almost complete lack of zip and pizzaz about their game, with the exception of Brian O'Driscoll, and they could do little to alter the trend when South Africa raised their own game after half time. Simple errors undermined Ireland's performance throughout , but it is difficult to be critical of players who have been training and playing for almost a year.

The loss after half an hour of centre Gordon D'Arcy multiplied Ireland's difficulties. Once the creative Leinster man had limped off with an ankle injury, O'Driscoll was the obvious target for the South African defence. But O'Sullivan will be most concerned at the way Ireland's defensive patterns broke down so easily. Allowing lock forwards to rumble over for a try from the 22-metre line, through gaps of parkland-type space, is simply unforgivable at international level.

Ireland have much work ahead of them on the training ground this week if they are to rescue this short tour by winning in Cape Town on Saturday. They can still do it but it will take one last superhuman effort.

But if Ireland were a disappointment, South Africa deserve great credit for an outstandingly courageous display. They missed goal-kicks and made errors but their intrinsic belief and determination finally prevailed. An 11-11 half time scoreline was transformed into a 28-17 advantage within half an hour of the second half.

A try in each half by the Springbok lock Bakkies Botha, by some distance the man of the match, kept South Africa moving forward. Wayne Julies and Pedrie Wannenburg got the others, with Shane Horgan replying for Ireland in the 15th minute. Ronan O'Gara and Gaffie du Toit shared six penalty goals, the Irishman also dropping a goal.

South Africa: Tries Botha 2, Julies, Wannenburg. Con Fu Toit. Pens Du Toit, 3. Ireland: Try Horgan. Pens O'Gara 3. Drop Goal: O'Gara.

SOUTH AFRICA: G du Toit (Stormers); B Paulse (Stormers), M Joubert (Stormers), W Julies (Stormers), H Mentz (Sharks); J van der Westhuyzen (NEC, Japan), F du Preez (Bulls); O du Randt (Cats), J Smit (capt, Sharks), E Andrews (Stormers), B Botha (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), P Wannenburg (Bulls), J Cronje (Cats). Replacements: CJ van der Linde (Cats) for Andrews, 58; G Britz (Cats) for Cronje, 65; Q Davids (Stormers) for Botha, 72.

IRELAND: G Dempsey (Leinster); S Horgan (Leinster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), G Murphy (Leicester); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); R Corrigan (Leinster), S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Easterby (Llanelli), D Wallace (Munster), A Foley (Munster). Replacements: K Maggs (Bath) for D'Arcy, 33; M Horan (Munster) for Corrigan, 64; F Sheahan (Munster)for Byrne, 64; A Quinlan (Leinster) for Wallace, 76.

Referee: A Spreadbury (England).