Springbok powerhouse says they ‘let the country down’ by losing to 14-man Ireland
Before a ball was kicked at the Newlands last Saturday Ireland were expected to be soundly dealt with by South Africa, exactly what the odds became when they were reduced to 13 men by the half hour mark is another matter
A combination of indifferent recent form, a large casualty list and never tasting victory on South African soil meant that Joe Schmidt’s make-shift touring party were thought to be onto a whitewashing from the new-look Springboks.
It was not a consensus comprised entirely of cynicism, but an informed realism. However, Ireland contrived to shatter the prevailing mores and did so with an indomitable grit and refreshing ambition.
Jared Payne’s fine try and the boot of Paddy Jackson gave the visitors a well deserved early lead before CJ Stander - who has since been suspended for the second test- was correctly dismissed for a clumsy charge down which resulted in South Africa fly half Pat Lambie being rendered unconscious.
Nine minutes later Robbie Henshaw was sent to the bin for a debatably high tackle on Lambie’s replacement Elton Jantjies.
The hosts smelt blood in the water and attacked accordingly. Lwaazi Mvovo crossed over for the Boks but a Paddy Jackson drop goal meant the game was tied at 13-13 at the half.
Conor Murray dotted down just after the restart and Paddy Jackson added a conversion and penalty to his tally.
South Africa attacked, albeit crudely, in waves but the Irish defence, recalibrated by Andy Farrell, held strong.
"We definitely created opportunities," said Warren Whiteley, the replacement back row (first published in Rugby365).
"There were a lot of opportunities to score. We probably ran across field too much and did not straighten well enough.
"It is difficult to say if that is due to the time we had together, but we are definitely going to work on that this week. There was space, but we just did not exploit it properly. They implemented a drift defence and we did not straighten enough."
South Africa came close to snatching at least a draw when Pieter-Steph du Toit intercepted Jackson’s pass to score but the Ulster fly half quickly compensated for his error by sending over the match winning penalty.
It was the first game at the helm for Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee and, as such, he may be afforded some leeway for the shortcoming. But, as Wheatley said, lessons must be learned post haste with Saturday’s second test on the horizon.
"You need to believe in what you do and you need to stick to it. Coach Allister spoke about it.
"We believe in his vision and his plan and we are going to work extremely hard. "We know that we let him down in his first Test match at Newlands and we let ourselves down and we let the country down. We are extremely disappointed and we need to rectify it as players," he said.