South Africa turn things around to see off Irish
DUBLIN - South Africa overturned a first half deficit and ill-discipline to open their November tour of the northern hemisphere with a deserved 16-12 victory here Saturday at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.
After a half blighted by poor play and the concession of 11 penalties, leading to a 12-3 deficit, the visitors turned up the intensity and kept Ireland scoreless in the second half to consign Declan Kidney’s understrength side to defeat.
The Springboks had looked vulnerable, and the hosts impressive, but a half time speech by coach Heyneke Meyer had the desired effect.
And with Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip sent to the sin bin moments after the restart, the Boks ruthlessly notched up ten points to steal ahead and grab a lead they refused to relinquish.
“We had a terrible first half, made a lot of mistakes and forced a lot of passes,” South Africa scrum-half Ruan Pienaar told the BBC.
“But in the second half our forwards made a huge step up, got some good drives going and forced them to make errors.”
Meanwhile, injured Ireland star Brian O’Driscoll was left reflecting on what might have been.
“South Africa were there for the taking. After a nine-point lead at half-time the lads are going to be very disappointed.
“We spoke about not letting South Africa have a purple patch, but they did have one at the start of the second half.”
South Africa came to Dublin hoping to banish the memories of a disappointing third place finish in the Rugby Championship and ease the pressure on the coach, under whose stewardship the Boks have won just four of nine matches.
Meyer had to plan without a host of stars and even worse was to come as Tendai Mtawarira was forced to withdraw hours before kick off, taken to hospital after a recurrence of mild heart palpitations.
CJ van Der Linde, who spent two years in Dublin with Leinster, stepped into the breach but Meyer did have some consistency in his selection, with just three other changes from the side that lost to New Zealand in the last game of the Rugby Championship.
Kidney made seven changes in personnel from the Ireland team humiliated 60-0 by New Zealand in June.
The hosts were hit by an injury crisis and lined up without O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Rory Best, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Ferris and Rob Kearney.
Nevertheless, Ireland raced into a six-point lead by the ten-minute mark thanks to a combination of Jonny Sexton’s flawless kicking and South African indiscipline.
South Africa were struggling to get on the front foot, but a good midfield break from JP Pietersen brought the Boks into Irish territory and a Lambie penalty kick put the first points on the board for the visitors.
Discipline continued to hamper their efforts though, and with the Irish growing in confidence Sexton added a third penalty on 21.
South Africa were on the back foot now, and coughed up another penalty which Sexton dispatched with ease to put nine points between the sides.
The crowd were enjoying the spectacle, but the noise level lifted a notch when Pietersen enraged both the home crowd and players by charging dangerously into Chris Henry as the Ulster backrow stood waiting to catch a high ball.
Fists flew as referee Wayne Barnes sent the Boks wing to the bin, with Pietersen perhaps lucky to avoid a red card.
With the clock ticking toward half time, Keith Earls squandered Ireland’s best try-scoring opportunity, throwing his pass ahead of Bowe with the winger in space out wide.
Sexton and Pienaar missed kicks before the break, but the key moments were to come after the restart as the Boks upped their tempo and turned the game on its head.
Heaslip was sent to the bin for collapsing a maul with South Africa camped on the Irish line and just seconds later the Boks ruthlessly pushed home their advantage through a try by Pienaar.
Lambie added the extras to put the visitors ahead for the first time in the match and the young outhalf slotted another penalty on 69 to ensure victory.