Five facts to remember ahead of the Springboks’ Loftus Test against Ireland

RG Snyman runs with the the ball during the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup clash against Ireland. Photo: Jean-Marie Hervio/KMSP via AFP

RG Snyman runs with the the ball during the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup clash against Ireland. Photo: Jean-Marie Hervio/KMSP via AFP

Published Jul 6, 2024


The top-ranked Springboks host second-placed Ireland at 5pm on Saturday in a Test series that has captured the imagination of the rugby world.

While the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in France last year, they fell to the Irish in the pool stage, and have not beaten the reigning Six Nations champions since 2016.

As South Africa seek revenge, they will be defending a perfect home series record against Ireland, having won four from 1981 through eight victories in nine Tests.

Here, we take a look at five facts involving the rugby giants before they do battle in front of sell-out 52,000 crowds in Pretoria and Durban.

Dramatic swing

South Africa and Ireland have met 28 times with the Springboks winning the first international 15-12 before a 15,000 Belfast crowd in 1906.

South Africa won 14 and drew one of the first 16 Tests between the countries, including a record 38-point victory in Dublin.

The pendulum swung dramatically from November 2004, though, with the Irish successful in eight of 12 subsequent internationals, including the last three.

Try-less Ox

Loose-head prop Ox Nche stands alone among the 15 Springboks starters in never having scored a Test try.

At scrum time, the 28-year-old forward with a fondness for chocolate cake will crouch beside hooker and Sharks teammate Bongi Mbonambi, who has scored 14 tries in internationals.

The remarkable total of Mbonambi, given he is a forward, stems from his ability to retain possession at the back of driving mauls and score.

Busy Irish

Since the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, champions South Africa have played one Test, defeating Wales 41-13 at Twickenham last month with a team weakened by the unavailability of several stars.

The match fell outside the international window so the Springboks could not call on pivotal figures like captain and loose forward Siya Kolisi and fly-half Handre Pollard.

Ireland have been busier, playing five times since a World Cup quarter-final exit, winning the Six Nations Championship after defeating France, Italy, Wales and Scotland and losing to England.

Referee change

Australian Angus Gardner was chosen to referee the first Test in Pretoria, but withdrew due to undisclosed "personal reasons".

He will be replaced by Luke Pearce, with fellow English official Karl Dickson and Scot Mike Adamson the assistant referees and Ben Whitehouse from Wales the television match official.

Dickson switches roles for the second Test on July 13 at Kings Park stadium in Durban, where he will be in charge, assisted by Pearce and Craig Evans from Wales.

Rankings reshuffle?

South Africa have led the World Rugby rankings since defeating New Zealand in the 2023 World Cup final in Paris to complete back-to-back triumphs in the global showpiece.

Ireland lie second, and New Zealand, France, England, Scotland, Argentina, Italy, Australia and Wales, in that order, complete the top 10.

Should Ireland this month win a series in South Africa for the first time, they would replace South Africa at the top of the table.