Dublin: The satisfaction afterwards was not so much because they’d won the match, but rather because of the way they won here on Saturday.
The fact the Springboks’ 16-12 victory was their fifth in 10 matches this year is significant as it eases the pressure on coach Heyneke Meyer, but giving the Bok boss more joy was the fact his team applied the lessons they learnt earlier in the year ... to not give up and to keep fighting. And, of course, to stick to the plan.
Meyer stopped short of calling the win on Saturday the most important of the season, but he knows exactly how crucial it was for the development of his young side and for his own sake.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team and I know where we are going. There’s a great vibe in the side, but I must say I was almost desperate (for the team to do well),” he said afterwards.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in this team and am really happy. It shows again how close the sides are ... the difference between winning and losing is a point here and there and a call here and there ... if we’d lost, we’d have taken three steps back.”
Indeed. This was a most important win as it sets the side up for the rest of this European tour, with a match to come this weekend against Scotland and then against England.
What pleased Meyer most on Saturday was that his side were able to turn around a poor first-half showing, in which they gave away 11 penalties and couldn’t get anything going, with a powerful and error-free second half. Trailing 3-12 at the break to a passionate, and at times impressive Ireland missing several key players, the Boks scored the only try of the game through Ruan Pienaar after the interval and kicked on to win by four points.
“The first half was unacceptable ... nothing worked for us, we gave away too many penalties, but to come back and win it in the way we did shows the character of this side,” said Meyer. “Earlier in the season, we would have lost this game. The youngsters listened to the instructions, though, they didn’t panic, and us not conceding a point in the second half was special.”
Meyer said his talk with the players at the halftime break was not suitable for all ears ... as he reflected on missed opportunities this season. “We’ve been ahead against everyone this season, including against New Zealand and Australia away from home, and we lost those second halves.
“Our performance here in the first half was our worst 40 all season, and I told the guys they must show South Africa their best, to do what they can to the best of their ability ... and they responded. We’ll take a lot from this.”
Captain Jean de Villiers, who enjoyed a great Test having spent the last four weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, added: “It wasn’t so much the score (at halftime) that was unacceptable, but what we were doing out there was not what we wanted to do. Sometimes we must be hard on each other to get the best out of each other ... to be able to deliver a performance worthy of the Bok jersey.
“We weren’t able to pull it through in Mendoza against Argentina earlier in the year, but we did it here and I think we took our game to the next level in that second spell.”