Autumn Internationals Preview: Ireland v South Africa

Aviva StadiumDate: Saturday 7th November
Kick off: 17:30
Venue: Aviva Stadium

Ireland host the current World Champions this Saturday and go into this game with an impressive record against the Springboks.

South Africa haven’t won in Dublin since 2000, and the last time the beat Ireland at home was in 2004. An added edge to this game will be that it is likely that the next time these two teams face each other will be in the Quarter-Finals of the RWC in New Zealand next October!

Ireland’s most recent outing against South Africa last year saw them come out on top 15-10. Irish forwards coach, former South African assistant-coach, Gert Smal did more than teach the Irish pack how to jump in a lineout before the test: he taught them enough Afrikaans to understand the Boks’ lineout-calls, leading to Ireland dominating in that area. This year I somehow doubt it’ll be as easy to turnover the Springbok lineout.


Both teams have been dogged by injury in recent weeks, and this series of games will truly test the depth of their respective squads, perhaps a good thing 12 months from a World Cup? Paul O’Connell, Jerry Flannery and Tomas O’Leary are all unavailable for the Irish, while questions remain about Brian O’Driscoll, Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy and Rory Best’s fitness going into this game.

Of course, this pales into insignificance when you look at the list of Springboks not available to tour through injury: Jaque Fourie, Olivier, De Jongh John Smit, Andries Bekker, Fourie du Preez, Heinrich Brüssow, JP Pietersen, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Butch James, Schalk Burger, Ricky Januarie and BJ Botha.

So who is left? These are the three main areas of interest for me in this weeks test:


Springboks will most likely start with halfback pairing of Francois Hougaard and Morné Steyn, taking on the Leinster pairing of Eoin Reddan and Johnny Sexton. Steyn will be under instruction to kick for points at every opportunity to keep the scoreboard ticking for South Africa. And if that isn’t working out, South Africa have youngster Patrick Lambie to spring from the bench to take over duties. Johnny Sexton has a chance here to make the Irish number 10 jersey his own before the World Cup, although Ronan O’Gara will be ready to pounce should he make any mistakes.


Brian Habana v Tommy Bowe

Last time these two met was on the Lions tour last year – see this video below for the huge hit Habana put in on Bowe. Two of the greatest wingers in the world will go head to head this weekend, with in-form Bowe looking far sharper than Habana who is coming off the back of a blunder-filled Tri Nations and losing the Currie Cup final to the Sharks last weekend.

2nd Row

What can anyone say about one of the most successful 2nd row partnerships in World Rugby, Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield? Matfield has incredible athleticism and intelligent reading of opposition throws; Bakkies brings the metal and physicality. One thing is for sure the Irish 2nd row of Donnacha O’Callaghan and Mick O’Driscoll will have to bring their A-game on Saturday.

Player to watch

20 year-old Sharks utility back Patrick Lambie should make an appearance from the bench. He scored 25 points for the Sharks in the Currie Cup final at the weekend and looked extremely dangerous.


Ireland have been in camp for nearly two weeks and should be well prepared, whilst South Africa only arrived in Ireland on Wednesday night and have not had a camp as such due to the Currie Cup final last weekend. This does not leave nearly enough preparation time for an already disjointed squad. Will this tour be the end of Peter De Villiers? Possibly. I can see Ireland beating them well this weekend: Ireland by 14.

By Conor Buckley (@22dropout)

6 thoughts on “Autumn Internationals Preview: Ireland v South Africa

  1. Hi Conor,
    Its going to be a very exciting game. But in some respects Ireland can not win. What I mean is as that on paper the South Africans have not had a full preparation are traveling late and most importantly are ravaged with injury. So, should Ireland win and win well it will be put down to a long season and injuries for the BOK’s.
    Yet in ways I see them as being in a very similar position to Ireland in terms of squad age experience and a need to make changes before the world Cup. Even with the injuries they travel with they will still throw down a serious challenge to Ireland, many of their squad will use it as a chance to be seen. This will be no easy win for Ireland and I would differ with you final score prediction.
    The biggest threat for Ireland is the lineout I believe. This has been poor previously and once put under pressure could come unstuck. Ireland need a confident and steady start coming off the back of so many losses. They need the accurate throwing that Flannery normally provided. I think Devin Toners height would have helped here. Weakness here could definitely de-stabilise any Irish attacking intentions.
    Where Ireland can win is from the solidity and experience of their coaching staff. I sense a real unity and clarity of plan here which should permeate to the team and the performance. South Africa, should they fall behind could result to desperate measures to win as only this will save the coach.
    And of course ultimately the key to all recent games has been the referee’s performance and application and understanding of the ever changing rules! Lets hope he has a great game for everyones sake!
    All that said I believe ireland can win, but I believe they would rather have the mantle of underdog bestowed upon them before the match than be tipped to win comfortably.

    Good Luck. Brían

  2. Agreed on the lack of prep for the Springboks, Not the best way to start a tour.
    Should Ireland win they will not lose the run of themselves like what happened in Autumn ’06 leading into RWC’07. Ireland beat SA and Australia well and went into the World Cup with high expectations, well we all know what happened next!
    Devin Toner would be a great asset to have in the lineout, but does not have they physicality to up against Botha/Matfield. Mick O’Driscoll is not world class by any stretch but can hold his own in the lineout.
    Nigel Owens is taking charge this weekend, he is, in my opinion the best referee in the world, consistant, fair and has a good rapport with the players.

  3. Springboks 22 named, possibly still some changes to come…

    15 Gio Aplon – 9 caps
    14 Bjorn Basson – 2
    13 Zane Kirchner – 10
    12 Jean de Villiers / * Patrick Lambie – 63/0
    11 Bryan Habana – 66
    10 Morne Steyn – 21
    9 Ruan Pienaar – 43
    8 Pierre Spies – 37
    7 Juan Smith – 65
    6 * Deon Stegmann – 0
    5 Victor Matfield (captain) – 101
    4 Bakkies Botha – 68
    3 Jannie du Plessis – 20
    2 Bismarck du Plessis – 32
    1 Tendai Mtawarira – 22

    16 Chiliboy Ralepelle – 17
    17 CJ van der Linde – 65
    18 Flip van der Merwe – 6
    19 * Willem Alberts / * Keegan Daniel – 0/0
    20 Francois Hougaard – 5
    21 Adi Jacobs – 30
    22 * Patrick Lambie / * Lwazi Mvovo – 0/0

  4. Having seen their team sheet do you still predict a 14 point win for Ireland?
    Its going to be a battle, I hope the Irish bodies are in decent shape for the following matches.
    Yes Mick O’Driscoll will get stuck in, just thought Toner might make their target practice more difficult.

    Good Luck.

  5. Hey Brian,
    I’ll reign in my 14points (which was optimistic, I admit!) to 10.
    It’s going to be an epic battle in the scrum and alot will depend on the performances of Tony Buckley and Cian Healy.
    If Ireland can win their own ball from the lineout and reddan/sexton can get the backline moving we have a good chance of putting up decent scores. SA will want to keep it tight I reckon, Ireland will want to spread it around. Weather forecast for tomorrow is passing showers during the afternoon, the dryer the better for Ireland :-) Really looking forward to this game, game of the weekend!
    Good luck to you too!

  6. Great write-up,

    When I got tour your prediction I nearly had a nasty coffee all over laptop incident. I can’t possibly see a win that convincing, you are right when you say alot depends on the performances of Buckley and Healy, I just don’t think they are going to be up to it. Also much as I rate O’Callaghan I don’t think he can be expected to be at his best in the lineout and in the loose, therefore we will be lacking in of these areas.

    I can see us giving away a fair few penalties at the scrum, Steyn slotting these. Losing a few lineouts, getting worried and start forcing the wide game, leaving us liable to the intercept and the SA back three is full of pace. In all honesty I think we will be lucky to win, as I thought we were last time. I don’t think losing would be such a bad thing either.

    You mention the good run in the Autumn leading up to THAT World Cup. In order to avoid what happened last time I would favour a shaky autumn, followed by a dodgy Six Nations, leading us to the world cup with absolutely no expectations, which in my opinion is when we are at our best.

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