Fourteen-man Ireland beat the Springboks on South African soil for the first time yesterday in front of 42,620 stunned spectators at Newlands. Ireland lost CJ Stander to a red card midway through the first half for a challenge on Springbok out-half Pat Lambie, but despite the disadvantage won the first of the three-test series with a gutsy showing.
Ireland started the game well, taking advantage of South Africa’s loose discipline to enjoy some good field position and their maul was functioning well. Although Pat Lambie missed an early penalty to put the Springboks in front, the traffic was largely one-way and it was the visitors who drew first blood when referee Mathieu Raynal punished the hosts for pulling down a lineout drive.
Rory Best went to the corner and, again, the maul came down. Iain Henderson carried the advantage at the home side, before Luke Marshall chipped the ball in behind for Jared Payne to go over. It was a double-blow for the Boks who lost Lood de Jager to the sin-bin for the maul offence as Jackson slotted over the conversion.
Things turned in the South Africans’ favour with 22 minutes played as Ireland’s early good work was undone by a red card for Stander. On his return to his homeland, the Munster man connected with his former Junior Springbok team-mate Lambie’s head with his hip after the out-half had kicked the ball. Raynal reviewed the incident several times, before concluding that the 26-year-old had been reckless and dismissed Stander.
Despite losing their number 10, the home side scented blood and Elton Jantjies narrowed the gap to four with a penalty before a piece of skill saw out-half put Lwazi Mvovo over. Things got worse for Ireland as the referee reviewed the footage and found that Robbie Henshaw had gone high and late on Jantjies after the pass, so he was sent to the sin-bin as the conversion sailed over.
A now 13 man- Ireland somehow managed to go in level as Jackson landed an opportunistic drop-goal before Conor Murray brilliantly denied a Duane Vermeulen charge and Jackson forced Mvovo into touch.
Ireland scored a try to take the lead three minutes after half-time stunning the Newlands faithful. Quick hands from Payne saw Andrew Trimble advance up the right, his inside pass was touched by Willie le Roux and captain Rory Best pounced with a massive carry. Murray picked and went, avoiding de Jager’s tackle to put his side in front. Jackson converted and almost added another try when he slipped inside Frans Malherbe and chipped ahead, but Faf de Klerk was too quick for him and averted the danger.
South Africa came on strong, but Ireland’s defence held with captain Best leading from the front with a number of crucial interventions. Indeed, Jackson came close to making it a two-score game with a long-range penalty, but his effort cruelly came back off the post.
The Ulster man made no mistake with his next effort from closer range, but South Africa hit back instantly when Pieter-Steph du Toit intercepted the out-half’s pass and raced in under the posts. Jantjies converted to make it a three-score game, but Ireland kept coming and Jackson extended the lead to six from the kicking tee after missing a drop-goal attempt.
They had to play all the way to the end as the Springboks threw everything at them. JP Pietersen looked like he might have scored with the clock having ticked past 80, but a combination of heroic efforts from Payne, Henshaw and Jackson forced him into touch ending the game.