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Rugby World Cup: Five things we learned from Ireland’s 13-8 win over South Africa

Ireland’s lineout failed and the Springboks’ place-kicking badly let them down

Ireland grateful for the fixture scheduling in difficult Pool B

Having won their third pool match, Ireland can look back on the draw they were handed and be thankful for the way the games have fallen. The two-week break now means the Irish team can take the few days off until Wednesday and use the rest of the time to recover and prepare to face Scotland at the same venue in Paris on October 7th. Scotland have already had their gap week and played against Tonga in Nice on Sunday before they meet Romania next Saturday. Romania are the weakest in the Rugby World Cup Pool B, but players still run the risk of fatigue and injury. Ireland reported no injuries after the game against the Springboks. However, there are many sore bodies in camp and two weeks to take a break, travel back to the team base in Tours and set up to meet Scotland is the way Andy Farrell would have wanted it to be.

Ireland lucky to escape relatively unscathed from poor lineouts

South Africa will look at their kicking and say they could have won the match had they been consistent. Ireland will look at their lineouts, especially in the opening quarter where Johnny Sexton kicked to touch to set up the attacking platforms. For that period Ireland had most of the territory but nothing to show for it and at one point in the match had won just two out of their seven throws. Ireland lost six in total. Before facing Scotland, Ireland will have to work out whether, they were predictable, timing was out or Ronan Kelleher was over throwing or all. Either way it was an issue that almost got out of hand. The upside is that the players problem solved on the pitch, went shorter etc, and eventually were able to make the lineout functional. The difficult reality is Ireland allowed those moments to go by and the scoreboard stood still.

South Africa put pressure on Ireland’s ruck speed

Ireland will have to prepare for more of the same, of teams like South Africa cutting down their time as the tournament progresses. Ireland had their slowest ruck speed so far by some margin and represented the seventh slowest ruck speed of any team in any game (out of 44 teams in 22 games up until Saturday’s match). That showed the pressure South Africa were exerting at the breakdown, how fast they were closing space and hitting the rucks when ball carriers were going down. Prior to the game Ireland thrived on a ruck speed that was measured at between 2-3 seconds. They were exceptionally good at generating that and were the only team in the World Cup with less than three seconds per ruck on average. That changed against a powerful and dynamic Springbok side giving some food for thought.

Expect Pollard to return for kicking in knockout stages

One thing people have been saying is that it is not the last we will see of South Africa in this World Cup. When we do, we will certainly see them with Handre Pollard in at outhalf after three penalties and a conversion were missed by Manie Libbok and Faf de Clerk. Libbok was unsuccessful with a penalty and conversion, while Faf de Klerk hit a post and was wide with two long-range shots at goal on Saturday. Pollard isn’t in the team because he has limited time playing after coming back from injury having joined the Springbok squad as a replacement for the injured hooker Malcolm Marx. Under cooked, he had recently played for Leicester for the first time in around 14 weeks. Come the knockout phase, there is no doubt that Pollard will be included in the Springbok match day squad. They’ll have a World Cup-winning kicker.


Bomb squad selection backfires for Springboks

The replacement bomb squad didn’t work for Rassie Erasmus. The 7-1 split on the in favour of raw power didn’t get it done, although the forwards may claim they did their job by forcing penalties that were missed. The poundage looked like it was going to work after around 50 minutes when the Springbok bench poured into the match and they earned a scrum five metres from the Ireland line. The first scrum was reset as Ireland went backwards. From the reset the ball went wide to the left and Springkbok winger Cheslin Kolbe scored South Africa’s only try of the match. It looked then like fresh power and bench impact was having it’s say on the outcome. But Ireland adapted with Dan Sheehan, Ryan Baird and Iain Henderson coming in and having a positive contribution. So too the backs with Conor Murray winning a critical second half turnover.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times