Ireland’s 38-3 win over South Africa on the weekend was their best ever against the Springboks, eclipsing the 2006 scoreline of 32-15.
South Africa finished the Rugby Championship with a close loss to New Zealand and were hoping to build on this for their November series, but were completely outclassed.
The Irish scored four tries, through Andrew Conway, Rhys Ruddock, Rob Herring and Jason Stockdale, as well as kicking four penalties and three conversions.
The Springboks sole points came from a penalty, ten minutes into the second half.
It was a nightmare start for the tourists, as prop Coenie Oosthuizen left the field in the first minute after being hit in a double tackle by Jonny Sexton and debutant Bundee Aki.
Oosthuizen is one of the leaders in the side and his absence was keenly felt, as the Boks pack were completely overwhelmed by the Irish, conceding a number of penalties.
The Springbok backs were also outclassed, lacking vision and execution in defence and attack.
Conway’s maiden Test try, approaching the half an hour mark, came after a neat up and under by Irish scrum-half Conor Murray completely caught out the opposition. Conway pounced on the loose ball and ran in, untouched, from 20 metres.
Soon, South Africa had a chance to chip away at Ireland’s lead after they were awarded a penalty, but they chose to run it and were kept out by the dogged defence of Ireland’s backrow, especially CJ Stander, who was the best South African-born player on the pitch.
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The first half finished at 14-0 and South Africa claimed the first points of the second stanza, through a penalty by Elton Janjiies. It was only in the last quarter of the match that Ireland started to run away with the result.
Firstly, replacement flanker Ruddock ran in from five metres out. Then hooker Herring, another replacement, touched down from a line out.
Finally Stockdale, finishing off the move of the game, ran in his first try for his country. Replacemnent out-half Joey Carbery was only on for five minutes but managed to kick two conversions.
While it was a team effort, several Irish players deserve a mention for their performance.
Rob Kearney made a welcome return to international rugby at fullback – his dependency under the high ball was something South Africa sorely lacked. Both wingers, who only have five caps between them, thorougly deserved their first tries.
Aki had been the focus of criticism during the week, with many objecting to his inclusion (due to his qualifying under the three-year residency rule) but he put in a committed performance. Robbie Henshaw had some great touches and the halves controlled the day, with Sexton the deserved man of the match and Murray constantly chipping away at the South African line.
The home pack thoroughly dominated their counterparts (not many forwards have been able to say that over the years, though admittedly more in recent times). Tadhg Furlong showed why his opposite number, Tendai Mtawarira, thinks he is the best tighthead in the world at the moment.
It was a great performance by Ireland and it can be built on.
The defeat was another in a long list of records Allistair Coetzee will not have wanted to break. Under his tenure, South Africa have conceded their first home loss to Argentina, record losses to Wales and Ireland, their biggest ever defeat (to New Zeaaland) and first ever loss to Italy.
A 3-0 series whitewash of France and that close loss to the All Blacks were bright spots, but it’s mainly been poor.
Coetzee had come under review by the SARFU earlier in the year after a string of poor results. He managed to retain his job but the writing looks to be on the wall now.
Former Munster coach Rassie Erasmus is heading back to South Africa to take the job of director of rugby and will be Coetzee’s superior.
Of course, getting rid of the coach is akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. South Africa’s problems run deep, mainly due to the quota system and many of their best players plying their trade in Europe.
While South Africa looks likely to host the 2023 World Cup, it will be the only thing for rugby fans in the country to cheer for in quite a while.