Dublin will celebrate tonight as their Ireland team beat South Africa 15-10 at a cold and misty Croke Park earlier today. Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton was the hero of the day as he showed great temperament to kick all the points for his side, slotting five penalty kicks in terrible weather conditions.
The irony of the match is that it was the Springboks two most powerful assets all year the lineout and the boot of Morne Steyn that let them down.
They did score the only try of the match though, with Schalk Burger gliding through in the first half, setting up a 10-6 half time lead for the visitors.
Sexton kicked Ireland back in front in the second half, following a few unforced errors from the Boks, as well as one or two lapses in discipline.
South Africa dominated the scrums, but it was the Irish forwards who got the better of the break down as they turned over Springbok ball repeatedly. Rob Kearney at the back was also sensational for the home side, showing what a class act he is under the high ball in particular.
The conditions were ultimately dealt with better by the home side, but it came down to Ireland slotting their kicks, and South Africa missing theirs.
“You have to kick your penalties. They took their chances but we didn’t,” said captain John Smit.
“We did a lot of damage in the scrum and that gave us a huge amount of impetus. But our lineouts and kicking let us down but ironically those have been our strengths this year.”
Springbok coach Peter De Villiers has confessed that fatigue played a part after a successful, yet exhausting year. “We want to honour rugby and do the best we can,” he said.
“If we’d picked the second team people would have thought we’re looking down on them but maybe we should have rested a few senior players. We must regroup and build on what we’ve achieved this year.”
Brian ODriscoll reflected on how pleased he is that the Ireland team have turned things around, considering they lost 22-3 to New Zealand a year ago.
“This win was very pleasing – it’s all about continuing to progress,” said O’Driscoll.”We were in a dark place this time last year and we did a lot of soul searching and there was huge honesty. To turn it around as quickly as we have done is a huge credit to everyone involved, not just players but management too.
“Im glad to come out on the right side of a result. The last three times weve been good enough to win in Dublin. Now the pressures on us to go down there (to South Africa) and pick up a scalp.”
Following the match in Dublin, South Africa have been named IRB Team of the Year, while Ireland coach Declan Kidney was named IRB Coach of the Year.
“It’s been a huge year for us and to top it off with a recognition like this, to secure the top prize is massive. It was a huge ambition of many of the guys to beat the British & Irish Lions, it was a goal to be victorious so that was a great highlight for us during the year,” said Smit.
Ireland themselves have played ten, won nine, and drawn one this year.
“I don’t know what to say really, the team have been superb over the last 12 months, said Kidney.
“I feel my role is overstated, I haven’t made a tackle all year! But for my family putting up with me and the players putting up with me even more I’d like to accept it on their behalf.”