Coach Heyneke Meyer said he delivered a few choice words at halftime to turn South Africa’s “unacceptable” performance into victory in Dublin on Saturday night.
The Springboks were fortunate not to be trailing by more than 12-3 at halftime in their opening Test match of the month, with discipline a major issue and Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton equally willing to punish any indiscretion.
A fourth defeat in five trips to Dublin looked on the cards, but following coach Meyer’s intervention, the visitors turned the game on its head and scored an unanswered 13 points to secure a deserved win.
“I can’t tell you my message at half time,” Meyer said, half smiling, after resorting to his version of the “hairdryer” approach of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. “There were a few harsh words, it was really unacceptable. We gave up too many penalties, we couldn’t get going, it was very hard work, but [now] I’m very happy with my team. At 12-3 down, they showed lots of character and I’m proud of them. They learned a lot today and it’s a step forward.”
Ruan Pienaar’s second half try was the only time either side crossed the whitewash, in a game of few clear cut chances.
Stopping Ireland from crossing their line was a source of pride for Meyer, as was his side’s ability to come from behind to earn victory.
“You’d like to play a game where you scored lots of tries, but this means more than beating Australia at home,” he said. “Speaking to the players at halftime, I said we’ve always been ahead at halftime in every game this year, even in two away games in Australia and New Zealand, but then we’d lost in the second half. I said this was the worst half I’d seen and told them they have 40 minutes to show us what we can do. The guys responded to that.”
Victory was achieved without a group of injured first team regulars, but also despite the late withdrawal of Tendai Mtawarira, who was taken to hospital early on matchday with heart palpitations.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney said there were a few positives to be taken from his understrength side’s showing, but not enough to overcome the feeling of defeat.
Following Argentina’s victory in Wales, Ireland now need to beat the Pumas in two weeks time to boost their crucial ranking points.
AUSTRALIA vs FRANCE
Australia coach Robbie Deans was left shell-shocked after seeing his team convincingly put to the sword by an aggressive France team that stifled any plan for a width-based Wallaby gameplan.
France notched up two tries from Louis Picamoles and Wesley Fofana along with a penalty try (for persistent scrum infringements) and 15 points from Frederic Michalak’s boot and a late Morgan Parra penalty in running out 33-6 winners.
Deans’ team had only two first-half Mike Harris penalties to their credit and went into the break 16-6 down, despite dominating terrritory and possession.
However, Deans pinpointed the French attitude at contact and discipline in defense as key to his Wallabies, featuring an exciting backline, unable to express themselves fully.
And with England at Twickenham on the cards next weekend, before tricky trips to Italy and Wales, the Kiwi coach realizes improvement is needed to get their tour back on track.
“It was a very complete performance from the French. They were too good for us,” Deans said. “They grew in confidence. It was an arm wrestle for a bit, but they deserved their victory.”