Time for the players and coaches to take a well-earned rest. They can reflect on a tour to be proud of, the disappointment of losing two Tests and the joy of creating history in the first match.
What might have been? Everyone is disappointed at the final whistle. Don’t let anyone tell you that results don’t matter. They do. Winning matters.
Conor Murray, on his 50th cap, was rightly lauded for his leadership in the squad both on and off the pitch and he summed up the feelings in the immediate aftermath of the third Test:
The squad wanted to win for the jersey, for the retiring Eoin Reddan, for the pride it brings to the island and of course for themselves. It didn’t happen but there are still plenty of positives to reflect and build on.
— Sean Cronin (@SeanCronin2) June 25, 2016
Four players pulled on the green jersey for the first time – something for them and their families to be rightly proud of.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) June 25, 2016
Quinn Roux, Sean Reidy, Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy have the cap and the bruises to prove it.
Many young players got a real taste of the cauldron of Test match rugby. They will learn from this and will go on to do great things in the green of Ireland.
The post-match reception demonstrated everything that is good about rugby. The camaraderie that exists, the ability to go toe to toe for 80 minutes and then drink the health of your opposite number.
Gifts exchanged between unions, lasting memories and songs sung by the new caps (we’ll spare their blushes).
There is also a sense of pride. You should be proud when you play for Ireland. It takes drive and determination. It takes skill. It takes guts.
The tour comes to an end but the work continues. There’s plenty of kit to be packed up. Everything from medical equipment to bibs has to be ready to go.
South Africa 2016 has been a special tour. The people have made the Ireland squad feel welcome and humble and the spirit of rugby lives on. They really do #LoveRugby here.
The players will rest up and come back in a few weeks to dream big in green once more.
Tour Diary Week 1: Cape Town
Arrival In Cape Town – A warm welcome and a dip in the sea
Training Day – An intense session against an incredible backdrop
SharkCopter – A day of rest with great white sharks
Team Announcement Day – the team for the first test is announced
Captain’s Run And Coaching Kids – Last run-out in Newlands and a school coaching session
Match Day & History – Ireland beat the Springboks for the first time in South Africa
Travel Day – Farewell Cape Town, Hello Johannesburg
Tour Diary Week 2: Johannesburg
Making A Splash – A pool recovery session and watching the Euros
Altitude & Joost – Training at altitude and a chance to meet a legend and hero
Team Announcement 2 – 10 changes and three new caps for the second Test, and some serious skill from Eoin Reddan
Match Day In Johannesburg – Heartbreak for Ireland as the Springboks level the series
Tour Diary Week 3: Port Elizabeth
Recovery And The Future – Sea session, mental anger and looking to the future
The Shortest Day – The shortest day of the year but plenty of work packed in by the Ireland team
Bhubesi Pride – A day to give something back to rugby working with some of the poorest children in Africa
Missionvale & Redser Retires – An emotional trip to Missionvale township and a legend retires