Ireland recorded their biggest win over South Africa on Saturday with a 38-3 hammering at Lansdowne Road.
The Irish ran in four tries – three in the last 10 minutes – to extend the woeful Springboks winless run to five matches.
Especially pleasing for Joe Schmidt was the fact that three of his inexperienced players, Andrew Conway, South Africa-born hooker Rob Herring and the impressive Jacob Stockdale scored three of the tries. Rhys Ruddock nabbed the other.
Here, we take a look at three things learned from Dublin.
For a side that sparkled for large parts of the Rugby Championship, South Africa failed to bring an attacking and physical edge to the Aviva Stadium and were blown away by a strong Ireland side.
Joe Schmidt’s men played with desire and commitment in defence and attack as they hammered South Africa territorially at every opportunity.
They restricted their opponents from attacking the wider channels, with Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale always willing to close down the Springboks back three and prevent any quick breaks from deep.
Although it is unfair to say Alistair Coetzee’s side looked short on confidence, it was the Ireland’s pressurising tactics to keep possession and close down space that caused them problems.
The Springboks failed to keep the ball in hand, threaten the line and out-work the Irish – and that proved costly in the end.
Ireland looked very accomplished from ball in hand during a scrappy contest, with man-of-the-match Jonny Sexton at the fore of their kicking dominance.
He consistently pinned back his opponents deep in their own territory, and converted five out of six kicks in a stellar display.
In the big games, the 32-year-old cements his reputation as Ireland’s ice man with his threatening efforts from hand and off the tee.
Overall, Sexton played the line superbly, both with ball in hand and defensively, and set the tempo for a commanding Ireland win.
The Ulsterman was an inspirational presence against the Springboks, taking on possession at every opportunity.
One of the best in the business under the high ball, the 21-year-old showed his stellar pace, solid tackling ability, good positioning and lethal finishing under the bright lights of the Aviva Stadium.
He made a superb break to execute a key pass for Rhys Ruddock’s try and capped off a fine performance with a clever finish just before full-time.
If Schmidt has one eye on the World Cup then he needs to give this industrious winger more chances to continue developing his skills on the international stage.
At 6’5, he can act as an option for full-back, centre and wing and should get the nod for the matches against Fiji and Argentina.
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