Ireland were too good for South Africa in Dublin last night, scoring four tries in a convincing 38-3 victory.
South Africa look likely to beat Ireland to hosting Rugby World Cup 2023 – but on the field Joe Schmidt’s men appear some distance ahead of the rebuilding Springboks.
Andrew Conway set things in motion, snatching Conor Murray’s bouncing ball high bomb clean away from three defenders, before racing into the corner.
Rhys Ruddock sneaked home for Ireland’s second try, after powerful Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale and Conway had cut South Africa apart.
Rob Herring capped a driven lineout before Jacob Stockdale claimed the final try, as Ireland glossed the score at the end.
Wing Conway excelled on claiming his first try on his fifth Test, the 26-year-old the beneficiary of Ireland’s decision to omit Munster team-mate Simon Zebo – who heads to Racing 92 in France next season.
Johnny Sexton booted 14 points as Schmidt’s men oozed calmness against the robust but limited visitors.
Ireland will move on to host Fiji and Argentina in the next fortnight, with hopes rising of a November clean sweep.
For South Africa, it was a terrible result and performance. Afterwards, flanker Francois Louw said it was “up there with the worst” in their history.
“We have not done what we wanted to achieve today,” said Louw. “We were chasing the game early on, a bit of ill-discipline put the Irish on the scoreboard and to be fair to them, they took massive advantage of that.”
Sexton posted a hat-trick of penalties to settle November nerves, before Ireland rocked the Springboks with the first half’s only try. Conway latched on to Murray’s bouncing bomb with lightning speed, before haring into the corner for a fine finish. Sexton hit the post from the touchline conversion attempt.
South Africa then botched a couple of scoring opportunities as Ireland managed to cling on to their 14-0 advantage at the break.
A rare error from CJ Stander shortly after half-time, a high tackle on Tendai Mtawarira, handed the Springboks their first points on the restart, with Elton Jantjies slotting the penalty.
But Sexton’s fourth penalty swung the pendulum again and edged Ireland 17-3 ahead, before Ruddock powered home after Stockdale and Conway combined to devastating effect.
That second score broke South Africa’s stubborn resistance, and Herring quickly powered over for a driven lineout try. Stockdale capped a flowing move for the fourth with the game’s final play, after smart industry from debutant Darren Sweetnam.