independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Blood, sweat and cheers for Strauss

BLOOD was spilled in Lansdowne Road on Saturday. It was South African blood, it just wasn't Springbok.

If anyone was doubting Richardt Strauss' dedication to the cause, they were assured inside the opening minutes. He hit his first ruck hard and by the time he emerged off the deck, he was bloodied. His cousin Adriaan wasn't revealing the culprit.

They had played against each other before when Adriaan was with the Cheetahs and Richardt was with the Bulls and played schools rugby together.

"I must say that the day he left I knew that he would play for Ireland," Adriaan said. "He is a hard worker and he left with one thing in mind and that was to play international rugby. He deservedly played his first Test here. It was a long time coming.

"He did quite well. Especially in the first half when they were dominating. Unfortunately for him, in the second half we stepped up a bit and maybe he was a bit more quiet, but I think he had a great first Test.

"He is a quality player and he will always be a loss to South African rugby. The Irish are very lucky to have him. He is an excellent player and a team man and they will enjoy him a lot as a person as well."

Strauss' story was the highlight of an otherwise forgettable day. For the subplots, you needed to delve a little deeper. The front-rows had their own thing going on.

Boks' loosehead Heinke van der Merwe took advantage of a clearly tiring Mike Ross to force a penalty at scrum time. Michael Bent was introduced and turned the tables on his new Leinster team-mate at the following set-piece. The next live scrummaging session out in UCD should be interesting.

It boiled down to the respective sin-binnings. Ireland never really threatened during JP Pieterson's 10 minutes of reflection for his hit on Chris Henry, but while Jamie Heaslip was on the naughty step, the Boks scored 10 points.

"At one stage I was almost desperate," coach Heyneke Meyer said. "It was unacceptable in the first half. There were too many penalties, so this means a lot to our team. Previous teams have lost three out of four (in Dublin), so at 12-3 down, they showed a lot of character coming back and I think this will take us two steps forward."

Superb

"It means more than beating Australia 31-8 when we scored five tries ... Ireland were superb in the first half, kicking behind us and putting the pressure on us."

South Africa head for Scotland next. After beating Ireland in 2010, the 'Boks were turned over in Edinburgh.

"This was the type of game we needed. We have been put to the sword a few times this year and though we've responded, we had some soft moments.

"In the second half there were no soft moments. But we have to keep our feet on the ground and stay humble because we were lacking in certain areas.

"Scotland are waiting. We would love to be unbeaten, but we don't want to be arrogant. We have to stay focused, but I can see the confidence growing in this team."

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