Boks leave it late to bury Irish hoodoo in crunching Test

SPRINGBOK flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit passes the ball during the first Test against Ireland at Loftus Versfeld yesterday. Phill Magakoe AFP

SPRINGBOK flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit passes the ball during the first Test against Ireland at Loftus Versfeld yesterday. Phill Magakoe AFP

Published Jul 7, 2024


THE Springboks left it late in Pretoria but a penalty try sealed a famous first victory since 2016 over Ireland as it ended 27-20 at Loftus Versfeld yesterday to go 1-0 in the series of two Tests.

When it mattered, the Springbok scrum came to the party after there was mostly parity in this facet of play throughout the game and they shoved the Ireland pack backwards over their own try line with three minutes left to take the game out of reach at 27-13.

The Irish never lay down and snuck a try through replacement lock Ryan Baird to narrow the margin, and if a knock-on after the kick-off did not happen, they would’ve fancied a run from their half as a last-gasp attempt to level things.

It wasn’t to be, because for most of the match, the Springboks’ defensive effort was on point, and they had the Irish on the back foot with their rush defence for the better part of the match.

The first half was exactly what the Boks wanted, as they ran their opponents off the park, and one in which they defended without giving too much away.

Apart from the high penalty count, it was the gameplan Bok captain Siya Kolisi promised on Friday – one with some innovative moves from the backs and forwards off scrums, line-outs, and breakdowns that caught the defence unawares at times.

Had they been more clinical, more tries could’ve been scored for a bigger lead at half-time than 13-8.

The first bit of backline magic already came in the third minute of play, and it was a move straight from assistant coach Tony Brown’s handbook.

The Springboks recycled quick ball off a ruck and it went through the hands of hooker Bongi Mbonambi and flyhalf Handre Pollard, who found outside centre Jesse Kriel in a bit of space to take the ball further up the field.

Kriel then smuggled the ball to captain Kolisi before he quickly got it away to the hot-stepping winger Kurt-Lee Arendse. The Paarl-born speedster needs about the same amount of space in a telephone booth to evade his opponents, and that he did. He sidestepped his opposite winger off the touchline, slipped through the gap, and ran in untouched for the Boks’ first try.

Pollard had a woeful day with his kicks, especially for posts, and his misses from relatively in front of the posts – three, to be exact – put the Boks under pressure when they should’ve gone in front by more.

The flyhalf missed two of the penalties in the second half, and Ireland continued to fight.

Thanks to an error from Irish winger James Lowe, Springbok flyer Cheslin Kolbe pounced on a loose ball and kicked it through to score a critical try to deflate the Irish before the penalty try came to all but seal things.

Lowe also made the blunder that led to the penalty try off the scrum.

Debutant Jamie Osborne, replacement scrumhalf Conor Murray and Baird scored tries for the Irish.

But the monster defence of the Springboks and some great touches on attack, among others by centre Kriel, proved the difference and sealed the win that puts the Boks in prime position to complete a series victory like in 2016, with the final Test in Durban on Saturday.

Points scorers

Springboks 27 (13): Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Cheslin Kolbe; Penalty Try. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2); Penalties: Pollard (2)

Ireland 20 (8): Tries: Jamie Osborne, Conor Murray, Ryan Baird; Conversion: Jack Crowley; Penalty: Crowley

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