It was a superb team effort throughout the 80 minutes that saw the Boks complete the series whitewash that most pundits expected would be achieved by the Triple Crown champions. South Africa won 31-17 in the first Test in Bloemfontein a week ago.
And it was another massive display from flank Schalk Burger that was the catalyst for the triumph. Loosehead prop Os du Randt was also a major thorn in the visitors' flesh, scrumming strongly and putting in some fine tackles throughout the game.
Fullback Percy Montgomery's 16-point haul included two conversions and four penalties and saw him break three records for a South African against Ireland in Tests -- highest point-scorer ever (now 44 points) as well as most penalties and conversions overall. Montgomery missed just one kick in seven attempts and hisinclusion was a masterstroke from coach Jake White.
Both teams used the boot to good effect early on to help settle nerves, with first Montgomery putting in a booming touch-finder -- ala Gaffie du Toit -- before Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll repaid the compliment.
O'Driscoll's kick took Ireland deep into Bok territory and led indirectly to the visitors scoring first. After they snaffled the ball from the Bok lineout, it was turned-over by SA, but Montgomery's clearance kick failed to relieve the pressure.From the ensuing lineout Ireland then found numbers out wide for left wing Tyrone Howe to score in the corner. O'Gara added the extras to put his team 7-0 up after just seven minutes.
The home team though never let the early setback put them off their stride and, despite a couple of wrong options and some poor handling, came back to earn a penalty after persistent pressure.Montgomery, in his comeback Test, stroked the ball over to reduce the deficit to four points after 16 minutes.
The Boks, clearly buoyed by their impressive performance in the first Test, were playing with supreme confidence and had the Irish stretched on several occasions as the half wore on.The tight five was again securing good ball from the set scrums, but the loss of Bakkies Botha told as the visitors managed to disrupt the ball at lineout time.
This, however, did not perturb the Boks and they were rewarded with a fine try by hometown favourite, Breyton Paulse, just after the 20-minute mark. Montgomery again made no mistake, this time from an acute angle to put the Boks 10-7 ahead.
A cocktail of slick passing, determined tackling and fine interplay between backs and forwards kept the visitors on the back foot and the capacity crowd in good voice.The Newport fullback then slotted his third kick from three attempts to put the Boks 13-7 up after 27 minutes.
And that six-point cushion should have been increased four minutes later, but flyhalf Jaco van der Westhuyzen - who was having a fine game - inexplicably held on when he had three men outside him and just one man to beat.
They made excellent use of their numerical advantage with a well worked try by left wing Jacque Fourie who came over to the right to complete a polished backline move moments later. Montgomery had to retake his conversion, but luckily succeeded with both and South Africa led 20-7. Fourie was replaced by Brent Russell minutes later after suffering a strained hamstring.
Ireland, though, had the last laugh of the half, when O'Gara landed a sweetly struck drop-goal as the hooter was sounding to keep his team in touch.
But South Africa, through their brilliant flank Burger, in particular, made the visitors work like dogs for every scrap of possession they earned. And when the Boks needed to defend it was Herculean stuff. The first ten minutes after the break was the strongest pressure the Boks felt and they dealt with the situation with aplomb.
The forwards earned every cent of their win bonus, while the backline is rapidly becoming a clinical unit.
Montgomery slotted another penalty 11 minutes after the restart to make the score 23-10 to South Africa, but a yellow card to centre Wayne Julies in the 68th minute meant the home team had to dig deep once more.The line did not hold though and O'Driscoll - who produced another fine performance - pounced on a grubber kick with 17 minutes remaining to close the gap to six points and set up a heart-stopping end to the match.
A crunching tackle from veteran prop Du Randt minutes later brought the loudest cheer of the day from the crowd, but still after returning to their full compliment the Boks had to pull out all the stops to stave off defeat in the last ten minutes.
Springboks: Percy Montgomery, Breyton Paulse, Marius Joubert, Wayne Julies, Jacque Fourie, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Fourie du Preez; Jacques Cronje, Pedrie Wannenburg, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Quinton Davids, Eddie Andrews, John Smit (captain), Os du Randt.Replacements: Hanyani Shimange, CJ van der Linde, Geo Cronje, Gerrie Britz, Bolla Conradie, Gaffie du Toit, Brent Russell.
Ireland: Girvan Dempsey, Geordan Murphy, Brian O'Driscoll (captain), Shane Horgan, Tyrone Howe, Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer; Anthony Foley, David Wallace, Simon Easterby, Paul O'Connell, Malcolm O'Kelly, John Hayes, Shane Byrne, Reggie Corrigan.Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Marcus Horan, Donncha O'Callaghan, Alan Quinlan, Guy Easterby, David Humphreys, Kevin Maggs.
Referee: Joel Jutge (France) Touch Judges: Tony Spreadbury (England) and Nigel Owens (Wales) TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy).
The Mail&Guardian. (SA)