White surprised by flat Irish display

SOUTH AFRICA’S World Cup-winning coach Jake White has expressed surprise at Ireland’s poor display in Saturday’s opening Autumn International at the Aviva Stadium.

The South Africans squeaked to a 23-21 victory over the hosts but a late, late scoring charge by Ireland papered over a shocking display which has put Irish rugby under the spotlight.

Ex-coach White watched the game at the weekend and admitted that the Irish set-piece display was “the worst I’ve seen (from them) in a while”.

However he believes the unavailability of Jerry Flannery, John Hayes and Paul O’Connell was a major blow to Declan Kidney’s side in this sector.

White, who led his country to ultimate honours in 2007, also said that South Africa shouldn’t bask in any glory after their two-point victory. White said: “Not many people expected the Boks to do as well as they did, and their performance was a pleasant surprise. With the disruptions of arriving late and having 13 players out, they weren’t expected to win.

“The Boks definitely deserved the victory, but it was surprising how poor Ireland were. The hosts played like everyone expected the Boks to be, Ireland were the disjointed side who made many mistakes.

“But those errors stem from the amount of pressure the Boks exerted and they didn’t allow the Irish to play. Ireland didn’t get much possession as their lineout and scrum faltered, and it was the worst I’ve seen their set-pieces in a while.

“No matter how good the Irish backs are, if you don’t get clean ball, that strength is negated. The Irish lost six out of 12 lineout feeds, and that was the big difference between this year and last year’s Tests.

“There’s no doubt without Jerry Flannery, John Hayes and especially Paul O’Connell, they were hampered. If you take three players out of any tight five in the world, the whole team will be severely weakened, that was the case with Ireland on Saturday. But that nagging recurrence of poor Bok substitutions arose again on Saturday. They’ve got away with it against the Lions last year, Wales earlier this year and now against Ireland, but they must learn from their mistakes. I would not have taken off Morne Steyn, even if the coaching staff weren’t happy with his general performance. The game was always going to be won by a kick in those conditions, and you always keep your goal-kicker on. The Boks also took Steyn off in the corresponding Test last year, but this time it didn’t affect the result, although it could have been very different if Ronan O’Gara’s last conversion attempt went over.

“People have lauded the Bok defence, but there must be perspective. The defence can’t be judged in those wet conditions when the Boks won so much ball and Ireland didn’t have any opportunities to build up pressure as they didn’t have quality ball. People shouldn’t jump up and down, especially when Ireland still scored two tries when the Boks had most of the ball. When Ireland did get some momentum and retained the ball, they scored, which was worrying.”

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