South Africa 30 Ireland 17: Ireland coach Noel McNamara said he has no doubt his U20s will regroup and have a crack at Georgia next Thursday despite falling to a second defeat in the World Rugby U20 Championship in France.
Ireland recovered from a dreadful start to hit the front early in the second half, but they were blown away by a hat-trick from South Africa centre Wandisile Simelane.
They will have to put this loss and the defeat to France behind them, with just a mid-tournament place to play for.
“They are a great bunch of lads, they have worked really hard and teams of lesser character would have suffered heavy defeats in both those games.
“They dug in, they kept fighting and put themselves in a position in both games to get something out of it.
“Nothing is going to change, they are going to work hard and we are going to prepare well. Georgia are a good side.
“Of course we are disappointed with a second defeat but the priority now is to recover and prepare for Georgia,” he said.
Ireland made it hard on themselves from the outset, conceding a try inside a minute of the start when scrum-half Jonny Stewart had a clearance blocked by his opposite number Zak Burger.
South Africa’s super pack also got on top and Ireland were on the back foot for most of the opening quarter and it was no surprise when they extended their lead through left winger Muller du Plessis after 20 minutes.
Ireland didn’t panic and a penalty from Conor Dean from 40 metres settled them and they took charge in the run to the interval.
The Irish pack became more effective and captain Calen Doris scored five minutes from the break.
The Baby Boks lost replacement lock PJ Steenkamp to a yellow card and it seemed that Irish winger Tom Roche got over after a quickly tapped penalty but the try was correctly ruled out by the TMO.
That left it 12-10 to South Africa at the break and while they almost scored again inside a minute of the restart — Irish full-back Michael Sylvester got back to deny winger Tyrone Green — it was Ireland who took control.
They looked set for victory when Doris put Sylvester through and a deft inside step was enough to take him in under the posts.
Dean’s conversion made it 17-10 and it seemed that Ireland were poised to pull away.
But it was South Africa who took over after that and centre Simelane, having switched to the wing, broke Ireland’s hearts with a devastating display of finishing.
He levelled the game at 171-17 after 52 minutes and it was obvious next score would be vital and it was Simelane who grabbed it when he chased Burger’s high kick and outfielded Stewart to score.
Gianni Lombard, who took over the kicking duties after they lost Super Rugby regular Damian Willemse, missed two conversions and a penalty but he extended the lead to eight, 11 minutes from time before Simelane sealed the win when he completed his hat-trick.
Scorers for South Africa:
Tries: W Simelane (3), Z Burger, M de Plessis Conversion: D Willemse. Penalties: Lombard
Scorers for Ireland:
Tries: C Doris, P Sylvester. Conversions: C Dean (2.) Penalty: Dean.
G Lombard; T Green, W Simelane, L Hendricks, M du Plessis; D Willemse, Z Burger; N McBeth, D Jooste, A Ntlabakanye; S Moerat, R Nortje; D Schoonees, BJ Dixo, M Uys.
S Erasmus for Jooste (26), PJ Steenkamp for Nortje (28-50 blood), L Dobela for du Plessis (41), M Rass for Willemse (48), A Tshakweni for McBeth (62), S Sandi for Ntlabakanye (62), Steenkamp for Dixon (63), R Vermaak for Nortje (72).
M Silvester (Leinster); T Roche (Leinster), T O’Brien (Leinster), J Hume (Ulster), S O’Brien (Leinster); C Dean (Leinster), J Stewart (Ulster); J Duggan (Leinster), D Barron (Munster) (D Sheehan, J Aungier (Leinster); C Daly (Leinster), J Dunne (Leinster); J Dunleavy (Ulster), M Agnew (Ulster), C Doris (Leinster).
A Hall (Ulster) for Dunleavy (54), H O’Sullivan (Leinster) for Stewart (58), J Byrne (Leinster) for Aungier (58), D Sheehan (Leinster) for Barron (64), J McCarthy (Munster) for Silvester (66), H Byrne (Leinster) for Dean (69), B O’Connor (Munster) for Duggan (69).
Damon Murphy (Australia).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved