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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019
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Springboks gracious in defeat to Schmidt's 'tactically brilliant' Ireland

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer lauded the ability of man of the match Johnny Sexton.

Conor Murray releases a superb kick for Tommy Bowe to run on to and score.
Conor Murray releases a superb kick for Tommy Bowe to run on to and score.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

SOUTH AFRICA COACH Heyneke Meyer and captain Jean de Villiers both conceded that they had been beaten by the superior team in Dublin, as Ireland emerged 29-15 winners at the Aviva Stadium.

The Springboks’ leaders bemoaned their handling errors, poor use of possession and a yellow card to Adriaan Strauss as key factors in their loss, although they refused to use the latter incident as an excuse.

Having come into this game relatively fresh from beating New Zealand last month, and with months of preparation behind them, South Africa were understandably given favourites status.

However, a breathtaking defensive performance from Ireland, allied to clever kicking and a clinical attacking element saw Joe Schmidt’s men pull off a surprisingly comfortable victory.

Obviously we’re disappointed,” said Meyer post-match. “I’ve always said Ireland’s a quality side, a great defensive side and they’re very good in the set phases. That’s why they’re Six Nations champs.

“They really played well tonight. We had to adapt to the conditions, though it was wet underfoot, the biggest thing was that they used their chances and kept the ball. Tactically they were very astute and brilliant.

Heyneke Meyer Meyer was open and honest in assessing the Boks defeat. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“We just made mistakes, so there’s no excuses there. We will know exactly where we are after this tour and weren’t good enough tonight. All credit to them, I thought they really played well.”

Captain de Villiers, who played alongside the likes of Paul O’Connell at Munster during his short stint at the province in 2009/10, was equally accepting of Ireland’s superiority, while also pointing to the obvious Boks’ flaws.

The 33-year-old centre accepted the the South African players had failed to deliver in an essential aspect of the game.

I think you need to take everything into consideration and look at the game realistically. The things we could work on prior to the game, your scrumming, your tactical kicking, your line-outs; we did that well. What we couldn’t do was hang onto the ball.

“That’s not a coaching thing, that’s basic grade one rugby – catch and pass. It’s not that we played badly, we couldn’t catch and pass. That’s the disappointing thing, because you would think that once you get to this stage, you could do that.

“Like the coach said, you’ve got to give credit to Ireland for the way they played. They were well prepared, they got in our half, had one opportunity and took it and scored. Credit to them, but for us it is a step back.”

Jonathan Sexton kicks his second penalty Meyer knew Sexton would have a telling impact. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Francois Hougaard struggled majorly for the Boks at scrum-half, while 20-year-old Handré Pollard was far from an imposing figure in the game. In stark contrast, Ireland’s halfback pairing of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton were world-class in Dublin.

Meyer conceded that the ability of the Ireland out-half had alway been a primary concern for him, while also pointing to the influence Schmidt and his assistants Les Kiss, Simon Easterby, Greg Feek and Richie Murphy as important.

“We played a world-class team and we just weren’t good enough,” said Meyer.

I’ve said all week that the biggest danger for them is Sexton. He’s a quality player and tactician. They’ve turned us more than we did [turn them with kicking]. You can’t play championship rugby away from home in these conditions.

“You’ve got to adjust and we didn’t do that. I always knew they were a quality side, always knew it was going to be a very, very tough game. They’ve got a great coaching staff and they were better than us.”

Meyer conceded that the yellow card for Strauss after a tackle on Rob Kearney in the air had sapped his side of momentum at a crucial point, but refused to moan about referee Romain Poite’s decision.

“The ref is always right and there’s no excuse. We could use it as an excuse, but I don’t want to.”

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Murray Kinsella

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