Boks take a huge tumble...again
MATCH REPORT: Ireland recorded their biggest win over South Africa on Saturday with a 38-3 hammering at Lansdowne Road.
In our preview we got this game wrong - not in our choice of who the winner would be, but in our prediction of an intense, close encounter. It was not close at all.
In fact for the second time this year, the Springboks, supposedly improving, conceded a record score. In September New Zealand beat the Springboks 57-0, a record. This Saturday, two months later, Ireland beat the Springboks 38-3, a record. Previously Ireland highest score and biggest win was 32-15 in 2006. In 2006 Ireland scored four tries to two; this time it was four tries to a convincing nil.
It's fine to aim for process ahead of victory if process means progress. If their performance against Ireland was an example of process, it is one without progress. It is regression.
It is the fifth Springboks match without a victory after being beaten twice by New Zealand and drawing twice with Australia. But this one is in a league of its own.
All praise to Ireland. They knew what they were doing and they did it expertly, even if it was predictable. It was predictable that they would attack Courtnall Skosan and they did so with profit either with kicks by Conor Murray or accepting the gift of an overlap on that wing.
The scrums were expected to be a massive contest. They were not, because the Springboks were penalised four times at scrums and freekicked once. Late in the match the Irish destroyed a South African scrum, kicked out the resulting penalty, mauled and scored a try. The Springbok pack was beaten.
The Springbok backs achieved nothing. Ireland backs were involved; Dyllin Leyds managed some involvement, Skosan none. In fact, even though the Springboks had more possession and advantageous territory than the Irish, even their attacking seemed defensive.
If this is an augury for the rest of the tour, the Springbok will end up gutted.
One man made a huge difference between the two teams - Conor Murray, emphasising yet again the importance of the scrumhalf role. The Springboks knew he was going to boxkick. Their knowledge counted for nothing as they had no way of coping with it. Murray passed without taking steps to deprive his backs' of space and his decision-making was faultless. The score would have been different if he had played for the Springboks.
There had been rain in Dublin before the match and it was cold. The players' breath told you that. In the cold the players stood for introductions to the president and the singing of three anthems. Elton Jantjies kicked off deep, and Ireland kicked out for a line-out on the half-way line.
From the line-out, Coenie Oosthuizen was tackled, injured and taken off on a mobile stretcher, apparently with an injured ankle. Wilco Louw took his place.
Of the first four scrums, two were penalised and one produced a free kick. Tendai Mtawarira, South Africa's most capped prop was penalised at the first scrum, and Jonny Sexton gave Ireland 3-0 lead after four minutes.
South Africa's backs had a great opportunity to score as they went left and had a four-against-one situation but Damian de Allende kicked ahead and South Africa lost ground and a golden opportunity. They had just one other in the match.
From a scrum free kick, Ireland tapped and ran. Lood de Jager was penalised for not rolling out of a tackle and Sexton made it 6-0 after 14 minutes. Five minutes later Siya Kolisi kicked the ball out of a ruck and Sexton made it 9-0.
Then came - alleluia - a try. From a line-out, Ireland mauled and Murray kicked a box kick. Skosan missed it, Andrew Conway got the ball and ran some 24 metres to score in the right corner. 14-0 after 26 minutes.
At 28 minutes, Ireland were penalised for being offside, South Africa's first penalty in the match. The kick at goal was a simple one but the Springboks opted to kick for touch. Jantjies's kick was a weak one, producing a line some 15 metres from the Irish goal-line.
The Springboks had their second chance to scored a try as they went wide left and Skosan had an overlap but Kolisi's no-look pass went in to touch.
When the second half got under way, the Springboks looked lively and eager to run, but it gradually faded away, but not before they got their only points for the match.
CJ Stander tackled Mtawarira high and Jantjies goaled, 14-3 after 44-minutes.
That little gain was wiped out when somebody was penalised at a tackle and Sexton goaled again. 17-3 after 56 minutes.
At this stage the Springboks began making changes. On came Steven Kitshoff, Francois Venter and Handré Pollard. But the Irish looked set to score when Ross Cronje took four steps to his left before throwing a pass which tall Devin Toner knocked on in attempting an intercept.
In the last 10 minutes Ireland scored 21 points, from three tries.
From a line-out on their left after a scrum penalty, they went wide right where Conway had an overlap. The ball came back inside and Rhys Ruddock scored the try. 24-3 after 72 minutes.
Ireland destroyed a South African scrum. The Springboks were penalised and Ireland kicked out for a five-metre line-out. They mauled and Rob Herring, a Capetonian, scored the try. This time it was Joey Carbery who converted. 31-3 after 77 minutes.
Carbery got the last try rolling when he kicked a wide diagonal to the right. Darren Sweetman did well to latch onto the rolling ball near the touch line and from wide right Ireland went wide left and a try in the left corner by Jacob Stockdale, which Carbery converted from touch.
38-3 - a record.
Man of the Match: Conor Murray. Sexton was brilliant but Murray really commanded the game.
Moment of the Match: That scrum when Ireland destroyed the Springbok scrum, which clearly had capitulated and the capitulation then became more apparent when Ireland mauled and scored the try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody. This was an honourable rugby match, just not a sparkling one.
Tries: Conway, Ruddock, Herring, Stockdale
Cons: Sexton, Carbery 2
Pens: Sexton 4
For South Africa:
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 James Ryan, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Darren Sweetnam.
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Francois Venter.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)