Ireland 29 South Africa 15
Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe plundered tries to guide stubborn Ireland to their first victory over South Africa in five years at the Aviva Stadium.
Joe Schmidt’s side rebuffed their bullish visitors to triumph 29-15 and register their fifth consecutive win, Ireland’s best run since 2009.
Leinster’s 23-year-old flanker Ruddock, son of former Wales star Mike, seized his first Test try after replacing the ill Chris Henry just hours before kick-off.
The 23-year-old Leinster flanker won his fourth cap while Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell moved onto the bench to offset boss Joe Schmidt’s further-depleted loose forward ranks, with Sean O’Brien the chief long-term absentee.
Schmidt launched Ireland’s three-Test autumn schedule by matching Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne in an all-new centre partnership, while the Springboks named the same starting line-up that edged out New Zealand last month.
Johnny Sexton punctuated Ireland's bright start with a curious high bomb deep into the Springboks 22 that allowed the hosts to clear.
Rob Kearney was penalised for tackling Willie Le Roux in the air in his desperation to reach Sexton’s over-hit Garryowen.
Ireland refused to bind on South Africa’s resulting lineout maul however, a clever ploy that disarmed the visitors’ mighty drive even before it launched.
South Africa escaped censure for Marcell Coetzee’s elbow to Jamie Heaslip’s face, but were quickly admonished for collapsing at the scrum.
Sexton opened the scoring from the tee to hand Ireland the three-point advantage.
Le Roux’s forward pass compounded Jan Serfontein’s loose ball as the Springboks sought control, and Francois Hougaard’s lack of control from a ruck just five metres out foiled Heyneke Meyer’s men again.
Pollard then drifted a long-range penalty effort wide, before Le Roux got away with a clear knock-on.
Mtawarira turned Serfontein’s knock-on into an Ireland penalty, handling the ball offside as the Springboks once again failed to exploit territorial dominance.
Rob Kearney raced through midfield to set Ireland back on the front foot, teeing up Sexton to slot his second penalty and double Ireland’s lead.
South Africa then pummelled Ireland’s scrum to win a fine penalty – which they punted to the corner rather than strike at goal.
This time Ireland could not stop the Springbok maul at source, but referee Romain Poite halted the drive with Devin Toner the chief disruptor.
Ireland’s scrum disintegrated again, and Pollard chose lineout over goal once more.
The Springboks had the knife on Ireland’s jugular, only for Hougaard to drop the ball in trying to find Pollard from the back of the maul.
Ireland held firm at the next scrum, before winning a penalty to clear their lines.
For Mike Ross, who had spent the last fortnight scrambling to beat groin trouble to solve Ireland’s tighthead injury crisis, this was an important mini victory.
Toner fielded Sexton’s wide chip only to fire inside to Etzebeth, but Ireland yet again squirmed away unscathed.
Jack McGrath foiled another Springbok penalty lineout maul, before Murray sneaked the ball out of a retreating scrum just ahead of an Ireland collapse.
South Africa refused to relent, and Pollard finally posted a penalty to hand his side a scoreboard foothold.
Ireland opened the second half in style, Ruddock claiming his first Test try from a well-worked lineout maul peel.
After all the Springbok maul might it was Ireland who drew first tight-game blood, with Sexton’s conversion creating a 10-point lead.
Peter O’Mahony winded himself slamming into team-mate Murray, while Payne was penalised for not releasing – but still Ireland held their nerve.
South Africa’s scrum dominance set them shortly back onto the front foot, with Sexton racing out to block Le Roux’s pass and stave off another opening.
When Jack McGrath was penalised for popping up at the scrum, South Africa opted for the lineout.
This time there was no stopping the maul, with flanker Coetzee barrelling home.
Pollard converted to cut his side’s deficit to just three points approaching the hour.
Sexton's third penalty of the night proved only brief respite amid the Springbok onslaught, but a huge double hit from O'Mahony and O'Connell launched the Dublin crowd into full voice.
Replacement hooker Adriaan Strauss was sin-binned for taking out the airborne Rob Kearney, allowing Ireland to clear their lines.
Sexton’s rapier punt into the corner then piled the pressure on South Africa, with number eight Duane Vermeulen forced to throw in.
Ireland stole possession and pounded through the phases, eventually forcing a penalty.
Sexton slotted the goal to push Ireland nine points ahead with 10 minutes to play.
And then they wrapped up a famous victory, wing Bowe latching onto Murray’s pinpoint chip to claim the home side’s second try of the night.
Sexton’s smart break broke the first wave of Springbok resistance, allowing British and Irish Lions half-back Murray to tee up Bowe for the finish.
Schmidt’s raft of substitutions signalled a happy Ireland camp, though Jared Payne hobbled off in clear discomfort.
Replacement Ian Madigan landed a penalty of his own, before JP Pietersen salvaged some pride with a late South Africa try.