Autumn Nations Series: Ireland 19 South Africa 16 (full-time)

Nathan Johns has live reaction and analysis after Ireland hold on for narrow victory

Ireland have kicked off their November campaign with a dogged, gritty win over South Africa. It was by no means pretty, but scores from Josh van der Flier and Mack Hansen were the difference as Ireland held off a fightback from the Springboks’ bomb squad bench.

Jamison Gibson-Park changed the game when he came on, increasing Ireland’s tempo and picking some brilliant options as Ireland created just enough to get the required points on the board. In defence, they dealt with South Africa’s physicality up until the final quarter, doing enough to hold on as the set-piece also held up despite it being an area of traditional South African strength.

Scroll down to catch up on the game as it happened and for all the latest reaction and analysis.


Then there was Etzebeth with the best piece of skill of the match. Baloucoune initially made an excellent read and hit on le Roux, but Etzebeth’s ability to take defenders out of the game seconds later was simply too good.


South Africa of course did hit back. Initially, it was brilliant defence from Hansen to stop Kriel going over in the corner before South Africa were halted by Baloucoune - albeit with a high tackle - once they went down the opposite flank. Eventually, with quick ball and a scrambling defensive line, Mostert had too much space and forced his way over.


The Mack Hansen score, well, no doubt about that one in it was a beautiful bit of rugby. Doris dives on the loose ball, Gibson-Park takes advantage of Kitshoff being out of position defensively, steps into the space well before the hands from O’Brien send Hansen over in the corner.


Let’s run through the tries. First up, the Josh van der Flier maul score. The TMO was adamant he kept his foot in play before scoring. I don’t see how he can be so sure. You be the judge.


The win has come at a cost for Ireland. Conor Murray looked to pull either his thigh or groin, Stuart McCloskey has what looks like a nasty shoulder injury, Tadhg Furlong picked up an ankle knock while Johnny Sexton also hobbled off in the closing stages. Regardless, next week’s clash with Fiji was always ear-marked for rotation and will give an extra week of recovery time for some players before the Australia clash.


I didn’t do much, just sat at the back of the maul and pushed hard.

—  Josh van der Flier on his excellent finish to open Ireland's try-scoring account as he battled the touchline before dotting down.


Full-time: Ireland 19 South Africa 16

Ireland have done it! The ball is launched off with the clock in the red as Andy Farrell’s side does just enough to hold on for a significant win to start off the season.


80 mins: Conan takes the lineout as Ireland go into clock-killing mode. 30 seconds now...

Ireland 19 South Africa 16


79 mins: Etzebeth thinks he’s in after pouncing on the loose ball but a stray South African boot illegally kicked the ball out of the ruck. Carbery kicks the penalty into the 22 as The Fields rings out across the Aviva.

Ireland 19 South Africa 16


Carbery has replaced Sexton.



What a score. The attack looks to be dead after Baloucoune’s excellent read and shot on le Roux. That figures without Etzebeth’s ridiculous offload to take two defenders out of the game and send Arendse over in the corner. Crucially, Kolbe misses the wide conversion. It’s not even close, South Africa are being made to pay for not picking an established goal-kicker.

Ireland 19 South Africa 16


76 mins: Nche has won another scrum penalty as South Africa play with advantage. de Klerk carries deep into the 22 before the forwards take over. They’re 5m out now...

Ireland 19 South Africa 11


75 mins: South Africa want a penalty for a deliberate knock but the officials are happy it was a spill in the tackle from Hansen. Springbok scrum right on the Irish 22.

Ireland 19 South Africa 11


74 mins: Huge kick in this game as Sexton looks to stretch the lead to beyond a converted try. He lines it up from just inside the left touchline, just outside the 22 and... he’s got it! Ireland lead by 8.

Ireland 19 South Africa 11


72 mins: Sexton tries a cross-field kick with the advantage. O’Brien can’t get to it under pressure from le Roux but Nche and Mbonambi were offside. Decision time for Ireland and Sexton opts for the posts from a tight, wide angle.

Ireland 16 South Africa 11


70 mins: Ireland get away with one. Keenan’s up-and-under is average, but Willemse’s return is even worse as he launches the ball out on the full. Ireland lineout just inside the South Africa half.

Ireland 16 South Africa 11


Ireland replace O’Mahony with Conan. Healy is also on for Porter.


TRY FRANCO MOSTERT! Try is given as the secondrow grounds the ball fairly. Excellent scramble from Ireland to initially save two opportunities but in the end they are simply stretched too thin. Le Roux has the kicking tee, and he’s hit the post from just out to the left! Both sides have been poor off the tee.

Ireland 16 South Africa 11


67 mins: How have South Africa not scored? Kolbe and Kriel are in acres of space in the corner but Hansen does enough to limit the damage. Only temporarily as Mostert thinks he’s over a few phases later. We’re checking the grounding.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


65 mins: Gibson-Park has his clearance charged down but it works for Ireland as the loose ball falls to van der Flier who can run into space. The attack is ended when Fourie gets in over the ball. Willemse kicks into the corner but it’s a shocker that fails to find touch.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


Changes for both sides. Ireland replace Sheehan with Herring as South Africa bring on Fourie for du Toit. Beirne is also gone for Ireland, Treadwell replaces him. Arendse is back on for the ‘Boks as Mapimpi limps off.


63 mins: Gibson-Park just put in a try-saving tackle as the last man after Smith took a clever quick-tap penalty. South Africa look to be over in the corner for all money but Willemse cannot hold onto a high pass to him and the chance goes begging.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


63 mins: du Toit is blown off a ruck as Ireland counter. Beirne hacks ahead and Willemse does very well to retreat and gather under pressure. Both sides exchange kicks before Willemse runs it back. Ringrose puts in a big shot on du Toit.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


61 mins: Koch sells Porter beautifully with a dummy out wide but his attempted lineout fails to go to hand. Gibson-Park looks to clear but his box is poor and South Africa have it back close to the 22.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


60 mins: Penalty Ireland! Koch doesn’t drive straight at the scrum and Sexton can clear his lines.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


59 mins: Brilliant from Tadhg Beirne. He works through the middle of the South African maul to get to the ball and win the scrum turnover. James Ryan and Andrew Porter were heavily involved as well.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


58 mins: Nche’s first involvement is to win a scrum penalty on Bealham. Why South Africa took so long to bring him on considering Kitshoff’s struggles is beyond me.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


South Africa have put Kitshoff out of his misery finally. Nche is on for him as Mbonambi replaces Marx.


57 mins: O’Brien and Ringrose’s line-speed forces a turnover but there was advantage following Baloucoune’s knock-on in the air. We’re walking from scrum to scrum at this stage.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


54 mins: Kitshoff gives away his second penalty at the scrum. It’s not been a good few minutes for him.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


52 mins: It’s all coming up Ireland now. A knock-on at the lineout costs South Africa an attacking platform and Ireland look to attack from deep. It doesn’t work; du Toit pounces on a loose ball inside the 22, but Kriel lets Ireland off the hook with a forward pass. Le Roux is on in the back three for Arendse, Kolbe shifts to wing.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6


South Africa make two changes as Wiese and Hendrikse are replaced by Smith and de Klerk.


50 mins: What a score. It all starts when the ball squirts out the back of a South Africa ruck and Doris dives on the loose ball. Gibson-Park finds himself on the ball in midfield, Kitshoff fails to keep up with the shooter on his inside as a huge gap opens up. Gibson-Park doesn’t need a second invitation to run through, putting the ball through the hands as O’Brien feeds Hansen for the score in the corner. Sexton is again off with the extras from out wide.

Ireland 16 South Africa 6




48 mins: Well well well. It looked impossible to tell if van der Flier’s foot was in touch given the mass of bodies, add to that the on-field decision was not a try. Still, TMO Stuart Terheege has made his mind up that van der Flier was in play and the first try of the game is awarded. Sexton pulls the touchline conversion wide.

Ireland 11 South Africa 6




47 mins: South Africa look to have driven Ireland’s maul into touch but van der Flier thinks he’s scored before going out of play. The TMO will have a look.

Ireland 6 South Africa 6


South Africa make a change, Koch coming on for Malherbe in the frontrow.


45 mins: Ireland’s first phase strike to Hansen is read well by de Allende but O’Brien spots a gap off the next breakdown to tear into the 22. Ireland are on the attack but without their captain, Sexton is down behind the play. Gibson-Park’s fast delivery and then a ridiculous out the back offload to Hansen is making a massive difference to Ireland’s attack. A penalty comes as Malherbe fails to get out of the way of Gibson-Park while offside. Ireland go to the corner. Big moment in the game.

Ireland 6 South Africa 6


44 mins: Kitshoff hinges at the scrum and Ireland get the penalty. Potentially a let-off with the ‘Boks starting to get the upper hand at the set-piece.

Ireland 6 South Africa 6


43 mins: For the first time today, South Africa get the upper hand at the scrum. Gibson-Park is put under pressure at the back but Hendrikse knocks it on while while trying to slap it out of his hands.

Ireland 6 South Africa 6


41 mins: Back underway at the Aviva! Beirne claims the kick-off but the ‘Boks have the ball in Ireland’s half after Gibson-Park’s box-kick.

Ireland 6 South Africa 6


Right then, here we go again. The teams are back out. Ireland have made a change, Furlong’s injury keeps him in the sheds as Bealham comes on.


Here is that Kolbe challenge on Hansen. It’s his arm that makes contact with the ground first, hence the lack of red. Should du Toit have been punished too? I’ll leave them up to you.


It’s tight, it’s scrappy and it’s absolutely brutal. Murray, McCloskey and de Jager have all already fallen foul to the game’s level of physicality, while Furlong looks to be in trouble with his ankle as well.

Ireland have fronted up well when South Africa have gone to their forwards in the 22, to the point where the visitors’ attack has looked devoid of ideas. Arendse is in acres of space by himself on the flank but they have failed to unleash any of him, Mapimpi or Kolbe.

As for Ireland, the attack has not matched the defensive strength. South Africa’s shooters in the backline have caused plenty of issues and shut down multiple attacks, albeit there has been the odd occasion Ireland’s handling has been slick enough to beat them and find space.

In terms of metres made and territory, it’s more or less even despite Ireland showing a little more enterprise in attack, perhaps showing how South Africa are having more joy in the fringe collisions. Kolbe’s yellow card will sure be a talking point, but it did look to be the right decision to not upgrade it to a red.


Half-time: Ireland 6 South Africa 6


40 mins: South Africa play two powerful phases off the lineout before Ireland stray offside. Willemse has a kick to send the teams into the half-time sheds, should he want it. He does but in fact it’s Kolbe who takes it, slotting the effort from in front of the posts. Willemse doesn’t look injured, not quite sure what’s going on there.

Ireland 6 South Africa 6


Furlong may have paid for his efforts there. He’s getting treatment for what looks an ankle injury and on initial viewing, he struggled to put any weight on it. Up he gets, albeit with the help of plenty of strapping. He stays on for now.


39 mins: Ryan wins the lineout before Furlong does very well not to be tackled behind his own line. Under pressure, O’Brien finds touch just outside the 22.

Ireland 6 South Africa 3


37 mins: O’Brien’s left foot comes in handy as he clears using his favoured angle off the restart. South Africa earn a penalty off the lineout as Ireland drive through for the anticipated maul too early. With the advantage, grubbers from Willemse and then Hendrikse nearly pay off beautifully as a Keenan tackle and then the bounce of the ball into touch save Ireland. Back they go for the penalty, Willemse kicks into the 22.

Ireland 6 South Africa 3


36 mins: Sexton puts Ireland back in the lead with the penalty from the Malherbe no-arms tackle.

Ireland 6 South Africa 3


Now South Africa lose a player who goes off with his arm in a makeshift sling. Lood de Jager is off, Franco Mostert on at secondrow. Meanwhile, Conor Murray’s night is done as he too limps off. Gibson-Park enters the fray.


34 mins: Ireland are hunting inside the 22 after Murray’s break and a series of good carries with footwork from Sheehan and Porter. Kriel comes flying up to hit O’Brien behind the line but there is advantage for a no-arms tackle from Malherbe. No advantage and the penalty is given.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


33 mins: Ireland engage early at the scrum and Willemse can clear with the free-kick. Porter nearly manages to block it, leading to a hurried effort that gives Ireland a lineout close to the 22.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


32 mins: NO TRY Nearly try out of nothing for Ireland. Sheehan blocks Willemse’s attempted clearance before getting into a running race with Kriel to the bouncing ball over the line. Sheehan looks to have won the speed mis-match but it turns out he knocked it on just short of the line. South Africa survive.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3




30 mins: Penalty Ireland. Wiese looks to have spilled at the back of the scrum but play is allowed to continue. Murray nails him as soon as he picks and runs down the blind side before his backrow flood in to win the holding on call.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


29 mins: Another error as Sheehan rides a big tackle out wide before a spill at the back of the following ruck. South Africa scrum right inside the Ireland half.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


28 mins: Murray’s box kick is too long as Willemse gathers under no pressure before dancing past the first few chasers. Hendrikse returns with a kick of his own which Keenan runs back.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


Trouble for Ireland. McCloskey leaves the pitch with his arm in a makeshift sling, looks like he injured his shoulder while trying to tackle Etzebeth. Jimmy O’Brien is on for his debut but that’s desparately frustrating for McCloskey. Ringrose moves into 12 as O’Brien fills in at 13.


26 mins: Baloucoune with a brilliant take in the air before Ireland’s handling beats the shooters to put Hansen in space out wide. His grubber forward is taken by Kriel as South Africa move up to halfway before spilling on halfway. Soft turnover. That’s the end of Kolbe’s 10 minutes in the bin - South Africa did not concede while he was off the park.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


25 mins: Sheehan misses his jumper and Willemse dives on the ball at the back of the lineout. South Africa clear as both sides exchange kicks.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


24 mins: Ireland’s maul defence is once again very solid. They get another relieving penalty inside the 22 when de Jager dives in off his feet.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


22 mins: Ireland are blown off their own ball again and give away another penalty for playing the ball on the ground. This time, from the same spot as his earlier miss, Willemse goes to the corner.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


22 mins: That’s a bad miss from Willemse, shanking his effort from the 15m line.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


20 mins: Ireland think they have a turnover as McCloskey and Sexton hold up the runner, but the TMO has spotted a neck-roll earlier in the play. Willemse calls for the kicking tee.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


18 mins: That’s excellent from South Africa. Two shooters come out of the line to disrupt Ireland on first phase, Mapimpi nailing Keenan before forcing a counter-ruck. Ireland infringe on the deck and Willemse goes down the line.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


The right call. Kolbe was the main lifter, bringing Hansen above the horizontal. He’s lucky Hansen landed on his elbow rather than head, so it’s a yellow only.


Yellow card Cheslin Kolbe


17 mins: South Africa come flying upout of the line off the lineout but sumptuous handling from Sexton and McCloskey send Ringrose clear. His long pass wide is above Hansen’s head, stalling the momentum. However, the wing is lifted beyond the horizontal by a combination of Kolbe and du Toit and we are reviewing foul play.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


16 mins: We’re back underway as Sexton kicks the penalty down the line. Ireland lineout right on halfway.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


A break in play here as Tadhg Beirne gets treatment for a bloodied nose.


15 mins: McCloskey is warming into this game really nicely. Both he and Doris are on hand when South Africa under-resource a breakdown, getting in over the ball to win a relieving penalty.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


14 mins: Ireland leave Murray unprotected at the back of a ruck and pay the price. Wiese comes through and hits him as soon as he picks it off the deck, forcing the spill and earning the scrum just outside Ireland’s 22.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


12 mins: It’s very scrappy at the moment. Sexton gets drilled as he looks to offload but Ireland do manage to clear. Kolbe’s up-and-under is claimed well by Keenan but then Ireland lose it on the floor. Another kick comes before a knock on in the tackle gives Ireland a scrum close to their own 22.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


10 mins: Sheehan charges down a box kick to get the ground interested but South Africa regather. An apparent spill is adjudged to have gone backawrads but an aimless box gives Ireland back possession. McCloskey takes a hospital pass after Baloucoune is caught in possessino, but his ability to break the gain line is impressive as he puts in a good first touch.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


9 mins: Willemse levels the scores with the penalty in front of the posts.

Ireland 3 South Africa 3


7 mins: Ireland’s maul defence is good, as is their ability to front up facing the big forward runners. South Africa get nowhere for 17 phases before Willemse kicks aimlessly with no winger chasing. Advantage was being played with Furlong infringing at the breakdown.

Ireland 3 South Africa 0


4 mins: Ringrose scrags Kolbe to deck well as he looks to get on the outside before McCloskey rips in the tackle. A good defensive set from Ireland but advantage was being played after Ryan took the lifter in the previous lineout. South Africa take the aggressive option and go to the corner.

Ireland 3 South Africa 0


3 mins: Ireland can’t deal with the restart. Beirne can’t take Willemse’s kick-off cleanly despite little pressure in the air, spilling it into touch.

Ireland 3 South Africa 0


2 mins: Ireland have a penalty in front of the posts. Murray’s box-kick is charged down but that allows Ringrose to gather inside the 22. Once he’s tackled, Kitshoff fails to roll away, gifting Sexton an easy chance to open the scoring. He makes no mistake.

Ireland 3 South Africa 0


1 min: We are underway at the Aviva! It’s Sexton and Ireland who kick things off, lauching the ball long into the middle of the 22. Kolbe gathers and clears for South Africa, giving Ireland a lineout on the 10m line.

Ireland 0 South Africa 0


Nika Amashukeli of Georgia is tonight’s referee.


The good old two anthem trick. Have of the South African players broke rank to run onto the pitch after Amhrán na bhFiann, forgetting about Ireland’s call. Anyway, Ireland have the tracksuits off to reveal their new alternate kit. To be fair, it’s not as bad a kit clash with South Africa as many feared, but to have two sides both playing in dark colours isn’t ideal.


Lovely moment for Conor Murray. He runs out of the tunnel on his own and gets a good 10 minutes without anyone else out there to lap up the applause of the crowd as he notches a century of caps. Time for the anthems.


McCloskey vs de Allende, Furlong vs Kitshoff, Kolbe vs Keenan, tonight is full of fascinating positional match-ups. John O’Sullivan previews one of those here, that of Andrew Porter coming up against Frans Malherbe in the scrum. South Africa will be looking to target the set-piece given Ireland’s problems there in the past. Porter’s form tonight could play a significant factor in the final outcome. ]


And here’s Matt Williams’ verdict. He too believes Ireland can come out on the right side of today’s result.


The selection of Murray is interesting given many thought the greater tempo provided by Gibson-Park would be crucial to avoid the type of arm-wrestle that plays into South Africa’s hands, given their likely power advantage. Regardless, it’s a memorable day for Murray as he starts to earn his 100th cap. Gerry Thornley looks back at the Munster man’s best days during his previous 99 matches.


Some pre-match reading for you: Gerry Thornley previews the clash. His prediction? Ireland have enough to defuse South Africa’s bomb squad.


As for the ‘Boks, they’ve gone with Damian Willemse at 10 as the young playmaker continues to rise up the ranks. Cheslin Kolbe is at 15 in what could be a scintillating back three with Kurt-Lee Arendse and Makazole Mapimpi.

Faf de Klerk is only on the bench, Jaden Hendrikse starts at 9 while as always, Siya Kolisi leads out a monstrous pack from his spot in the backrow.


Talk about a bumper way to start the season for Ireland. After July’s triumph in New Zealand, the next step up was undoubtedly a date with the 2019 World Cup winners. For that date to come right at the start of a three-week run of fixtures at a packed Aviva with an evening kick-off? It doesn’t get much bigger than this.

Let’s start with the teams. Ireland have picked Conor Murray to start on the occasion of his 100th cap, Jamison Gibson-Park - who has yet to play this year - is on the bench. In place of the injured James Lowe, Robert Baloucoune starts on the right wing as Mack Hansen shifts over to the left.

Robbie Henshaw was named to start but subsequently had to pull out through injury, meaning Stuart McCloskey sees his early season form with Ulster rewarded with a start.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Robert Baloucoune, Garry Ringrose, Stuart McCloskey, Mack Hansen; Johnny Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Joey Carbery, Jimmy O’Brien.