Five talking points from Ireland's defeat to South Africa
Here we take a closer look at the main talking points from South Africa's incredible 32 26 comeback win over Ireland, which levelled the series ahead of next week's pivotal Test in Port Elizabeth.
1 The famed Boklash rears its head
After Ireland’s 26-20 win over the Boks last weekend – a first ever victory over their illustrious opponents on away soil – a backlash was predicted. A stuttering first half from Allister Coetzee’s men had many questioning the merit of that argument, but in the second half it came thick and fast.
Four second half tries crushed Ireland as the Boks displayed the kind of attacking verve Coetzee has promised to bring to South African rugby.
The introduction of Warren Whiteley and Ruan Combrinck changed the game for the Boks and they will surely be included in the starting XV next weekend. A huge third Test awaits in Port Elizabeth.
2 Jackson is a coming force
Ulster’s Paddy Jackson has shown form all season that he is the heir in waiting to Johnny Sexton’s reign in the Ireland No 10 shirt and his performances in the first two Tests in South Africa are showing just that and more.
Kicking superbly off the tee and out of hand, he has mixed play out of hand and off the boot superbly. Sexton has a real contender to his spot in the Ireland starting team.
That said, Jackson’s slipped tackle for the Combrinck try won’t go unnoticed and that one mistake takes the sheen off an otherwise excellent performance.
3 Ruddock can’t be ignored
Rhys Ruddock’s performance at openside flanker has given a timely reminder to Joe Schmidt that he is a superb starting option in the back row. Good on the deck and also destructive with ball-in-hand. His positioning, carry and offload for Devin Toner’s try exemplified how good he is going forward. With Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Sean O’Brien ahead of him in the pecking order he faces a tough task to hold down a starting spot but he’s put his hand up for inclusion.
4 Payne is best at fullback
The calls for Jared Payne to be deployed regularly at fullback were further backed up today as he ran lines of beauty and imagination in the first half. With Robbie Henshaw, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey and Garry Ringrose all options in the centre, will we see Joe Schmidt keep Payne at fullback in the November Tests? It’s up to Rob Kearney and Simon Zebo to displace him.
5 Andy Farrell’s defensive setup is still a work in progress
A rock solid Ireland defence in the first half had every scribe and pundit ready to heap praise on the new Ireland defence coach and deservedly so. But those structures, under incredible pressure in the second half, came to pieces as the rearguard was pierced four times. The new defensive system is still a work in progress – that’s clear – but there is cause for optimism that Farrell is the right man for the job.