Ireland kept their impressive record at home intact this evening with a demolishing victory over the once renowned Springboks. Quality and composure oozed from Ireland whereas South Africa were a mere shadow of their historic selves.
Rassie Erasmus has quite a challenge in changing the fortunes of this limping South African side, whereas Joe Schmidt continues to instill confidence and excellence into his players.
Here are the winners and losers from tonight’s game at Lansdowne Road.
The Ulsterman was the epitome of physicality in Ireland’s win against a hapless South Africa. Except for one dropped ball in the opening half, Henderson was phenomenal. Running over a 118kg Etzebeth is no mean feat and Henderson made it look ordinary. Ireland’s front row are clearly benefiting from the sheer weight behind them with Henderson and Devin Toner, never mind their own scrum intellect.
The scrumhalf is a beacon of consistent excellence. His delivery out of hand is phenomenal and his timing around the box kick gives Ireland’s back three the best possible chance to regain possession.
His composure and familiarity with Sexton is essential for a successful Ireland. The confidence his presence gives to those playing inside and outside him is incredible. In Murray, Ireland truly have one of the best players in the world.
Irish Coaching Ticket
The Irish coaching ticket need considerable credit for the way in which the Irish players went about deconstructing this South African team. Greg Feek surely played a part in the recall of Cian Healy into Ireland’s starting front row. The Irish pack, littered with Lions, instructed by Simon Easterby controlled the set piece battle with a composed lineout, scrum and attitude around the ruck.
Andy Farrell must have had quite a task funnelling Bundee Aki’s explosive power into a coherent composed defensive line and it worked seamlessly.
This Irish team are prospering because Schmidt and co have left no room for uncertainty.
The South African Lion looked a considerable cut below his opposing numbers. When Murray went to the air, it wasn’t a competition, Skosan wasn’t even in the same league. Allistair Coetzee has consistently chosen the Super Rugby flyer during his tenure but he has yet to truly or consistently deliver on the international stage.
With many South African pundits and former players stating that there is a vein in this team that is below standard, one cant help but feel Skosan is top of their list of players.
An independent review after much deliberation recommended that South Africa should be the hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. This is due to a number of categories, each worth different percentages in the overall marking scheme of the review. However, it was hard not to feel that South Africa were being awarded extra credit for something, for being a rugby nation of pedigree. This Springbok performance proved otherwise.
At this current moment in time, Ireland are not prepared to host the tournament in 2023, but are well underway in completing plans in order to be so. At this current moment in time South Africa are a shambles of a rugby team but are in the process of changing their fortunes with the appointment of Rassie Erasmus.
South Africa’s team have just as much time to change their fortunes on the pitch as Ireland do off it. Supposedly the added weight of South Africa and France’s financial bid didn’t factor into the independent panels thinking. If that’s the case, South Africa should take some of that money to bring stars like Duane Vermuelen, Bismarck Du Plessis, Morne Steyn and Willie Le Roux back to South Africa where they can be managed by the union.
World Rugby should put more emphasis on Ireland’s commitment to continued excellence over South Africans determination to regain their stature.
South African Halfbacks
Elton Jantjies and Ross Cronje have been found wanting. Their inability to take hold of the game for long enough to even compete, left the rest of this Springbok team stunted. The antithesis of Ireland’s pairing, South Africa need to address the meritocracy of their halfbacks. Options are limited, however there are experienced and proven internationals playing at home and abroad in Handre Pollard and Ruan Pienaar. Heyneke Meyer brought Fourie du Preez back into the national set up ahead of the 2015 World Cup which was a masterclass decision.
South Africa need to look through their current playing roster and ask the question, can this group not only perform, but perform to the standard of a Springbok?
It’s sad to see such a powerhouse of world rugby slide so far but credit must go to Ireland for dominating every aspect of tonight’s game.