DECLAN Kidney’s Ireland need look no further than their U20 brethren for inspiration as Mike Ruddock’s heroic foot soldiers turned over host nation South Africa 23-19 on the opening day of the World Cup at Stellenbosch yesterday.
“Our plan worked like a dream. We knew what we had to do. We had to defend very strongly, make our tackles count, put the big South African lads on the floor,” said Ruddock.
This was no smash-and-grab raid. The Irish outsmarted and outmuscled a gigantic South African pack of forwards which included three players with Super-15 experience.
The Baby Boks started with the expected zeal without the control to go with it. Ireland fly-half JJ Hanrahan kicked Ireland to a 6-3 lead by the 24th minute.
He stretched it out to 10 points when applying what you might call Gaelic football blockdown pressure on fly-half Tony Jantjes, Conor Gilsenan batting the ball down in the 27th minute.
His Leinster back-row colleague Jordan Coghlan was onto it in a flash to pick up the bouncing ball for a try beneath the posts. Hanrahan’s conversion made it a 10-point lead at the break.
The home side jump-started their comeback when lock Paul Willemse twisted to the whitewash, converted by Jantjes in the 54th minute.
The response was immediate. A combination of composure and smart play opened the door for Hanrahan to slam a drop goal through the posts in the 57th minute.
Jantjes narrowed the gap on the hour, Chris Farrell holding on too long on the floor, and made it level from the right\[Daniel Webber\] when captain Niall Scannell flirted with the offside line and lost.
Replacement hooker James Rael made an instant impression blocking down new nine Vian van der Watt to cause panic. Henderson took it on his shoulders to crack the defence.
Hanrahan was ice cool from the conversion to put Ireland seven clear in the 67th minute. Jantjes reduced it to four in the 71st minute.
But, there would be no further inroads made into a stonewall Irish defence.