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Ireland 'flattered' by record win against South Africa -- Schmidt

The Kiwi stresses that Ireland would be naive to think themselves 35 points better than the Springboks.

Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt is never one for over exuberance in the wake of a win, and tonight was no different after a crushing 38 – 3 November Test victory over South Africa.

The points scored and margin of victory both set new records for Ireland over a 26-Test, 111-year history against the Springboks. The previous high water mark, a 32 – 15 win, was set by Eddie O’Sullivan’s side against a shadow South African side touring in 2006.

“No, not at all,” said Schmidt when asked if he managed to see such a resounding victory coming.

“I think in the last four Test matches we’ve played against South Africa it’s been one or two-score margins.

“The score flattered us a little bit, we scored the bulk of those points in those last 12, 13 minutes. We went flat in that third quarter, disappointed with that, but at the same time they had to put themselves back in the game.”

As Schmidt concedes above, Ireland tagged on 21 points beyond the 70th minute thanks to converted tries from Rhys Ruddock, Rob Herring and Jacob Stockdale. However, before that at 17 – 3 Ireland’s solid defence ensured they never looked likely to relinquish a tight grip on the game.

“In the changing room the players physically wouldn’t say (South African rugby) is going backwards

“I guess the margins in Test match rugby tend to be exaggerated sometimes — they were well-beaten by New Zealand (in September) then the All Blacks would think themselves lucky to have won (in October).

We would be naive to think that the next time we play the Springboks there’s a 35-point margin between us, because that’s just not the reality.”

The Kiwi, who presided over Ireland’s first win away to South Africa last summer, added:  “I was really worried before the game, just because of that last game South Africa had played, and the quality of their players.

“It is incredibly satisfying to go out, watch the players bring the energy and accuracy, most of the time, they did.

Sean O’Brien, Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion congratulate try scorer Jacob Stockdale Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I grew up watching South African teams be pretty dominant when they were at their peak. I don’t actually think this Springbok team is very far away from that.

“It’s satisfying, it’s a relief.”

As an added bonus, some gushing blood for Peter O’Mahony was the only injury concern arising out of the opening November Test leaving Keith Earls as the only casualty of the series so far.

With Fiji next on the agenda for Ireland, Schmidt has signalled that he will not call in a replacement for the experienced Munster wing. Instead, he will continue to offer big match minutes to Stockdale, Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam, who sparkled in a late cameo off the bench.

“We probably want to optimise the opportunity for the younger wingers to play,” says Schmidt.

“I thought Andrew Conway was super, the amount of energy. It would be great to offer more opportunity there.”

Robbie Henshaw and Andrew Conway with Andries Coetzee Henshaw and Conway rise to take a high ball. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

As ever under Schmidt, with great opportunity comes great responsibility and even a record win won’t mean there are not a list of work-ons and inaccuracies placed in front of the 23 who performed tonight.

“That third quarter probably contains most of them. There were a couple of loose bits of discipline that we didn’t manage to keep a hold of.”

Overall though, a good night at the office.

“It tends to start at set-piece, I thought our kick-off reception and ability to work out of our own quarter was really positive.

“The scrum was incredibly positive in that first half hour and that allowed us some access points into the game. The line-out functioned pretty well most of the time, against a strong line-out.”

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Conway and Stockdale on the mark as Ireland cruise to win over sorry Springboks

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Sean Farrell

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