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.”
France were merciless in attacking the Australia set-piece, notably in the scrum.
It was no coincidence that Picamoles’ try was a direct result from pressure on the Wallaby eight, and the penalty try was rightly awarded by Welsh referee Nigel Owens with the French turning the screw on an Australian front-row in complete disarray.
ENGLAND vs FIJI
England coach Stuart Lancaster has told his side they will need to sharpen up their act when they face the world’s best sides over the coming weeks following a 54-12 thrashing of Fiji.
Lancaster saw an inexperienced side that contained 11 players with 13 caps or fewer each outscore Fiji by seven tries to two at Twickenham on Saturday as England launched their European autumn campaign with a record margin of victory over the Pacific Islanders.
Charlie Sharples, playing in place of suspended wing Chris Ashton, scored his first two England tries and Saracens fullback Alex Goode again showed signs of his play-making ability at Test level.
However, with Australia (Nov. 17), South Africa (Nov. 24) and world champions New Zealand (Dec. 1) all visiting Twickenham in the coming weeks, Lancaster knows his side cannot afford a repeat of Saturday’s sluggish opening quarter.
England also made a mess of several potential tries and, while that did not matter much against Fiji, such carelessness is sure to cost them dear against world rugby union’s top three nations.
England were a man down early when Danny Care was yellow-carded by referee Glen Jackson, on the advice of a touch judge, although sin-binning the scrum-half for a “dangerous” tackle on Fiji lock Leone Nakarawa seemed harsh.
Lancaster said he expected Care to avoid additional disciplinary action over the incident.
WALES vs ARGENTINA
Wales are sweating on the fitness of two of their marquee players, center Jamie Roberts and lock Alun Wyn Jones, in the wake of their 26-12 defeat to Argentina at the Millennium Stadium.
Roberts lasted 22 minutes before being laid out in a sickening clash of heads, while Jones damaged his left shoulder in a collision with opposite number Manuel Carriza in the second half.
“Jamie has mild concussion — to say the least — and Alun Wyn has done his AC [joint capsule in collarbone] and right now it does not look good. It is certainly going to test the strength in depth of our squad,” Wales interim head coach Rob Howley said.
It was the fourth defeat in a row for the this year’s Grand Slam champions, who now have to face Samoa on Friday night before tackling New Zealand and Australia.