©INPHO/James Crombie Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is tackled by Keith Earls.
Guinness Series: De Villiers highlights 14-man defensive effort as key to beating Ireland
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer revealed that a harsh exchange of words in the dressing room at half-time sparked a fightback.

SOUTH AFRICAN CAPTAIN Jean de Villiers believes the 10-minute period before half-time, when his side were reduced to 14 players, was the deciding factor in their 16-12 win over Ireland.

The Springboks had JP Pietersen yellow carded for a deliberate shoulder charge on Chris Henry but did not concede a point despite being short on numbers.

Keith Earls failed to connect with Tommy Bowe on the right wing and Jonathan Sexton missed a penalty during that spell but Ireland could not extend their 12-3 lead.

South Africa were fully staffed, with the return of Pietersen, at the start of the second-half and scored 10 unanswered points while Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip stewed in the sin bin for bringing down a maul near his tryline.

“That was vital for us but not only then,” de Villiers told ”When JP went off with the yellow card as well. Being able to defend well and keep Ireland out. You know we were under pressure there.

“When Jamie went off they missed that leadership there. That was a crucial stage of the game but, like the coach [Heyneke Meyer] said, some of the calls went our way and I think we were lucky in a sense.”

Harsh words

Meyer revealed that there was a full and frank exchange of views in the Springbok dressing room as his side reflected on a nine-point deficit against a charged Irish team.

He said, “I probably can’t tell you my message at half-time because there were a few harsh words.

“It was unacceptable, the first half. Really hard words between the players and that is where Jean is superb as a captain. Too many penalties.” Meyer added:

Obviously you would like to have games where we score a lot of tries but, for me, this means more than when we beat Australia at home, 35-8 or something [the Boks won 31-8] and scored five tries … not to concede a point in the second half is a great achievement.

“We’ve been under the sword a few times year and we’ll take a lot from this.”

South Africa move on to Edinburgh later today and will be keen to avenge their Murrayfield defeat to Scotland two years ago.

“We have to keep our feet on the ground and stay humble,” said Meyer. “There’s still stuff to learn and Scotland are waiting.

“We’d like to be unbeaten but Scotland are a great team so we won’t be arrogant.

“There is a lot of confidence growing in this team. There’s a great vibe”

Heaslip holds hands up over yellow card that cost Ireland dearly

Match report: Ireland v South Africa