As captain I should lead by example
Irish captain Jamie Heaslip has put his hand up and took the blame for his team's second-half capitulation against South Africa at the weekend.
The veteran No.8, with 50-odd Tests to his credit, saw his side concede a 12-3 half-time lead while sitting in the sin-bin for repeatedly collapsing the Springbok maul near the Irish line.
In the end the Boks bounced back from a nine-point deficit to win 16-12 in Dublin and hand new coach Heyneke Meyer his first away win since he took charge of South Africa's national team in January.
It is those crucial 10 minutes during Heaslip's absence that the Irish captain feels allowed the visitors to get an edge they never conceded.
The Irish led 12-3 when Heaslip was yellow-carded in the 43rd minute and in his absence the Boks scored 10 points to take the lead for the first time.
In a scoreless second-half for Ireland SA added another late penalty to seal their second successive win in Dublin - to go with a 23-21 victory in 2010.
"We started well in the first half and built up a good lead," Heaslip said of the weekend's encounter with the South Africans.
"We came out in the second half and as captain I should lead by example, but being yellow-carded wasn't a good example.
"I put my hand up straight away when we came in afterwards. I'm a better servant on the field than off it."
Four penalties from Jonathan Sexton gave Ireland a 12-3 lead they deserved, but they were picked apart after the interval as South Africa finally woke up.
"We were a little bit frustrated we weren't further ahead at half-time," Heaslip said.
"They were quite clever about how they played the game when they had the ball. I don't know how many opportunities we had.
"But we were still very confident and focused on what we had to do. We knew they'd have a purple patch, but felt we could keep our momentum."
The result condemned Ireland to their fifth successive Test defeat, their worst sequence since 1998, and follows their 60-0 drubbing by New Zealand in June.
Head coach Declan Kidney admitted they had made little progress on the pitch.
"The last game in June was unacceptable," Kidney said.
"This is a step forward in terms of bringing guys through, but we're here to win matches. That's what we get judged on and that's what we have to do. You don't pull on the jersey to come second.
"They got better field position and then started their mauling game.
"They smothered the ball for long periods of time and then we didn't get fast ball when we were in the positions we wanted to be in.
"We lost the game, but four new guys won caps and they'll gain from this experience.
"This is a tough learning curve and we need to get something out of the match against Argentina here in a fortnight's time."