Springboks end Ireland hoodoo in Loftus epic as Andy Farrell’s men left to rue missed opportunities

Planet Rugby
Kurt-Lee Arendse going over for the Springboks.

Kurt-Lee Arendse going over for the Springboks.

The Springboks claimed their first victory over Ireland since 2016 as they overcame the Six Nations champions, winning 27-20 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

Kurt-Lee Arendse crossed for an early try for South Africa before Cheslin Kolbe went over in the second period, with a 78th minute penalty try from a scrum sealing the win.

Ireland‘s tries came via Jamie Osborne, Conor Murray and Ryan Baird, while James Lowe had a stunning long-range effort chalked off due to an earlier ruck offence.

The Irish will also rue Caelan Doris going agonisingly close to grounding from a close-range carry and Lowe’s error that led to Kolbe’s try as the Boks go 1-0 up in the series.

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In worrying scenes, Ireland also saw scrum-half Craig Casey carried off on a stretcher after he hit his head on the pitch during a forceful tackle from RG Snyman.

Andy Farrell’s tourists were seeking a fourth-successive Irish victory over South Africa following a captivating pool-stage win at last year’s World Cup in France.

The Springboks recovered from that 13-8 Paris defeat to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, while forthright comments emanating from their camp since have further stoked a growing rivalry between Test rugby’s two leading sides.

Home supporters humorously fanned the flames by adapting the words of Ireland’s unofficial World Cup anthem ‘Zombie’, chanting “in your head, in your head, Rassie, Rassie” in reference to the frequent mind games of head coach Erasmus.

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South Africa responded to the big build-up and made a rapid start as jet-heeled wing Arendse collected Siya Kolisi’s pass to sidestep Osborne and cross on the left.

Ireland travelled to the southern hemisphere having bounced back from a familiar World Cup quarter-final exit by retaining the Six Nations title.

Jack Crowley’s 13-minute penalty put the visitors on the scoreboard before Handre Pollard twice split the posts at the other end to move the Springboks 10 points ahead.

Farrell’s men were struggling to build momentum amid a low-energy first-half display.

Crowley missed a routine penalty to reduce the deficit before Lowe’s magnificent offload as he was ploughed into touch by a combination of Kolbe and Jesse Kriel, after a slick pass from Dan Sheehan gave international newcomer Osborne a simple score.

Ireland were perhaps fortunate to only trail 13-8 at the break.

Erasmus brought on all six of his replacement forwards 10 minutes into the second period in an attempt to remain on top of the physical battle, just before visiting prop Andrew Porter departed with a bloodied hand.

Following his fine first-half assist, Lowe looked to have restored parity by darting clear to touch down.

But referee Luke Pearce disallowed the 58th-minute effort on review as replacement hooker Kelleher was deemed to have played the ball on the floor during the turnover.

Ireland’s misfortune was compounded by the worrying departure of Casey, before Lowe, in his attempts to keep the ball from going into touch, left Kolbe with an unchallenged run to the try line.

The contest then burst into life during a frenetic finish during which the Springboks were reduced to 14 men when Arendse was sin binned following repeated infringements inside the hosts’ 22.

Murray – on for the stricken Casey – dived over to put Ireland back in touching distance but a penalty try for the Springboks, prior to Baird’s consolation, ultimately decided a breathless encounter.

The teams

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu

Ireland: 15 Jamie Osborne, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ciaran Frawley, 23 Garry Ringrose

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (RFU), Mike Adamson (SRU)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

READ MORE: Ireland player ratings: ‘Mighty’ Caelan Doris shines but backs struggle to break through