|Ireland (6) 19|
|Attempts: Van der Flier, Hansen Pens: sexton 3|
|South Africa (6) 16|
|Attempts: Mostert, Arendse Pens: Willemse, Kolbe|
Ireland underlined their credentials as the number one team in the world as they held off a late South African fightback to claim a deserved victory in Dublin.
Josh van der Flier and Mack Hansen crossed early in the second half as the hosts emerged victorious from a brutal contest.
Tries from Franco Mostert and Kurt-Lee Arendse brought the Springboks back into the game, but Ireland held on.
The victory came despite the loss of three players injured in the first half.
Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray and Tadhg Furlong were sent off, but Ireland’s substitutes rose to the challenge, breaking the South African defense twice in a crucial 10 minutes early in the second half.
The Springboks contributed to their own demise, dropping seven points from the shirt in what was ultimately a decider.
The win was sealed in front of a passionate Dublin crowd who remain deeply invested in a team that continues to impress and evolve under Andy Farrell.
Injuries interrupt the absorption of the first part
Pre-match expectations were for a tight game between the world number one and the reigning world champions, so there was no way that either side could dominate the match for long periods of time.
The lack of tries in the first half did not detract much from what was a fascinating display in which both defenses came out with great credit.
The Springboks went further at the breakdown and found quicker balls than the hosts, but a well-drilled Irish defense limited them to small gains, failing to falter or appear on the back foot.
Both sides held the other and settled for two penalties in the opening 40, with Damian Willems pushing over a relatively easy effort on the stroke of half-time.
Ireland missed out with 10 minutes of added time after Cheslin Kolbe was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Hansen, which would have led to a red had the Ireland winger not landed on his back. against his neck.
Dan Sheehan charged Willemse’s shot and the ball bounced off Jesse Kriel for the hosts, but he was beaten as he attempted to land.
Most disappointing for Ireland, however, were injuries to McCloskey and Murray, in pursuit of his 100th cap, replacing Furlong before half-time.
McCloskey, promoted to the starting line-up due to Robbie Henshaw’s injury on Friday, was enjoying a fine game with striking appeal and high turnover in his 22.
However, he came on in the 27th minute after a sprained arm, and soon after Murray was replaced by Jamison Gibson-Park.
Furlong appeared to injure his right ankle late in the half and was not brought on after half-time, forcing three early changes against Ireland.
Quickfire attempt put Ireland under control
Despite the injuries, Ireland did not lose their continuity and came out much quicker than South Africa to take control of the game in a crucial 10 minutes.
First, Johnny Sexton opted to go for a corner instead of taking the easy three points when Van der Flyer touched down from Ireland’s roaming maul.
The score fired up the crowd and spurred on the home side, who finally found space three minutes later to score an incredible second try.
Peter O’Mahony reacted quickly to keep a loose ball alive on the right touchline, Gibson-Park was quick to spot the broken area to snipe through a hole and move the ball wide for easy access to where Hansen found himself.
Despite the lead, Ireland’s victory never felt assured as Sexton missed both conversions to keep South Africa in the game, and was vital in their fightback.
First substitute lock Mostert stretched before Sexton’s penalty appeared to put Ireland back in control of the contest.
However, Arendse escaped after Eben Etzebeth’s inspired offload with four minutes remaining to set up a tense finish, but Ireland saw out the remaining time on their own terms to claim victory.
Ireland: Keenan; Baloucoune, Ringrose, McCloskey, Hansen; Sexton (capt), Murray; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan; O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.
Replacements: Herring, Healy, Bealham, Treadwell, Conan, Gibson-Park, Carbery, O’Brien.
South Africa: Flasks; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Mapimpi; Willemse, Hendrikse; Kitshoff, Marx; Malherbe, Etzebeth, De Jager, Kolisi (captain), Du Toit, Wiese.
Replacements: Mbonambi, Nche, Koch, Mostert, Fourie, Smith, De Klerk, Le Roux.