The Ireland and South Africa rugby union teams have a rivalry dating back to 1906. The Springboks of South Africa have dominated their early meetings, with the Irish winning just once prior to 2004, but results have turned in Ireland's favour since then. In 2016, Ireland achieved their first test victory against the Springboks in South Africa with a 26-20 victory in Cape Town.

The teams' meeting on 6 November 2010 was the first Ireland Test at their new home of Aviva Stadium, where Ireland lost 23-21.

2004 Ireland rugby union tour of South Africa

Ireland travelled to South Africa in June 2004, having won their first Triple Crown since 1985, and beaten the champions of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, England in their first home game since the final.[1] As a result, the Irish manager, Eddie O'Sullivan, was confident that Ireland would achieve their first win over South Africa in 39 years, their only previous victory having come in Dublin in 1965.

By contrast, South Africa had just changed their coach to Jake White and he had radically changed the team for his first test since taking charge of the Springboks. The first of the two game test series was played at altitude in Bloemfontein and South Africa eventually won the match 31-17, despite the scores being level at 11-all at half time.[2]

The second match was played in the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, and was a closer affair. However, South Africa maintained their unbeaten record against Ireland on home soil by winning 26-17.[3]

2004 Autumn Internationals

The two teams were to meet again in November 2004 when South Africa toured the UK and Ireland, playing each of the home nations. In the lead-up to the match, South African coach Jake White provided additional motivation to the Irish team by publicly repeating his statement from earlier in the year that "only three Irish players would be good enough to get onto the South African team".[4]

The game's only try was scored in controversial circumstances by Irish fly-half Ronan O'Gara. In the 21st minute, New Zealand referee Paul Honiss awarded Ireland a penalty inside the South African 22 and told John Smit to go and talk to his players regarding their repeated infringements at the break-down. While Smit's back was turned and the Springbok players were being called into a huddle, O'Gara took a quick tap and ran in for five points. John Smit protested but the try stood. O'Gara missed the conversion, but was to make up for it with a drop goal from 35 meters 12 minutes later. Percy Montgomery put the first points on the board for South Africa on 26 minutes, but missed a second effort shortly afterwards. Ireland led 8-3 at the break.

O'Gara continued his success with the boot three minutes after the start of the second half with a penalty to stretch the Irish lead to 11-3. Montgomery quickly responded in kind, but shortly afterwards Schalk Burger was sin-binned for the second week in a row, which allowed Ronan O'Gara to increase the Irish lead to 14-6. A late tackle on Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll allowed O'Gara to increase the margin between the teams to 17-6. Percy Montgomery landed two more penalties, but Ireland hung on to win only their second victory over the Springboks, 17-12.[5][6]

John Smit claims that Paul Honiss approached him after the match to apologise for the mistake regarding Ronan O'Gara’s try. A few months after the incident Paul Honiss apologised publicly on South African radio for his mistake.[7]

2006 Autumn Internationals

On Saturday, November the 11th, 2006, the Springboks came to Lansdowne Road with an experimental side, including three debutants in the back three. The team was selected by head coach Jake White as a way of blooding players for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and South Africa's urgent need to develop new players in the lead up to that tournament. By contrast, Ireland's coach, Eddie O'Sullivan chose Ireland's strongest available team, hoping to take a prized southern hemisphere scalp and boost his team's morale.

The day of the match was a clear, wintry day, but as the late kick off time of 5pm approached, the infamous 'swirling winds of Lansdowne Road' began to blow. South Africa won the toss and chose to play into the wind in the first half, starting the game with a fine display of running rugby. On their first visit to the Irish half, they returned with points as their out half Andre Pretorius kicked a penalty into the wind. The Irish responded with a barging run by Denis Leamy who made the hard yards before passing to Ronan O'Gara, who then passed back inside to Andrew Trimble who found his way over for Ireland's first points.

From there, Ireland scored two more tries and ended the first half 22-3 ahead. South Africa played better in the second half and debutant winger François Steyn showed good pace to score in the corner, but out half Andre Pretorius failed to convert the try. Bryan Habana who usually plays at winger, but who played this match in the position of outside center, showed his speed and guile by scoring a remarkable solo try. Any thoughts of a South African revival were stamped out when Girvan Dempsey set up Shane Horgan for a try in the 76th minute. Ronan O'Gara scored the last points of the match with the conversion for a final score of 32-15.[8][9]

For the 2006 November Test against Ireland the Springboks wore an exact replica of the jersey that was worn by the touring side captained by Paul Roos in 1906. It was on this tour that the name 'Springboks' was coined. The kit consisted of a green jersey with a white collar, blue shorts and blue socks. Sponsors Sasol did not appear on the jersey. The strip was a part of South African rugby's centenary celebrations.



Details Played Won by
Won by
South Africa
Drawn Ireland points South Africa points
In Ireland 16 6 9 1 235 249
In South Africa 10 1 9 0 145 257
Neutral venue 0 0 0 0 0 0
Overall 26 7 18 1 378 506


Note: Date shown in brackets indicates when the record was or last set.

Record Ireland South Africa
Longest winning streak 3 (13 Nov 2004–28 Nov 2009) 8 (30 May 1981–19 Jun 2004)
Largest points for
Home 38 (11 November 2017) 37 (13 June 1998)
Away 26 (11 June 2016, 18 June 2016) 38 (30 November 1912)
Largest winning margin
Home 35 (11 November 2017) 33 (20 June 1998)
Away 6 (11 June 2016) 38 (30 November 1912)
Largest aggregate score
58 (South Africa 32-26 Ireland) (18 June 2016)


No. Date Venue Score Winner Competition
1 24 November 1906 Balmoral Showgrounds, Belfast 12–15  South Africa 1906–07 South Africa rugby union tour of Europe
2 30 November 1912 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 0–38  South Africa 1912–13 South Africa rugby union tour of Europe
3 19 December 1931 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 3–8  South Africa 1931–32 South Africa rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland
4 8 December 1951 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 5–17  South Africa 1951–52 South Africa rugby union tour of Europe
5 17 December 1960 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 3–8  South Africa 1960–61 South Africa rugby union tour of Europe
6 13 May 1961 Newlands, Cape Town 24–8  South Africa 1961 Ireland rugby union tour of South Africa
7 10 April 1965 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 9–6  Ireland 1965 South Africa rugby union tour of Scotland and Ireland
8 10 January 1970 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 8–8   draw 1969–70 South Africa rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland
9 30 May 1981 Newlands, Cape Town 23–15  South Africa 1981 Ireland rugby union tour of South Africa
10 6 June 1981 King's Park, Durban 12–10  South Africa
11 13 June 1998 Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein 37–13  South Africa 1998 Ireland rugby union tour of South Africa
12 20 June 1998 Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria 33–0  South Africa
13 28 November 1998 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 13–27  South Africa 1998 South Africa rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland
14 19 November 2000 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 18–28  South Africa 2000 end-of-year test
15 12 June 2004 Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein 31–17  South Africa 2004 Ireland rugby union tour of South Africa
16 19 June 2004 Newlands, Cape Town 26–17  South Africa
17 13 November 2004 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 17–12  Ireland 2004 end-of-year test
18 11 November 2006 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 32–15  Ireland 2006 end-of-year test
19 28 November 2009 Croke Park, Dublin 15–10  Ireland 2009 end-of-year test
20 6 November 2010 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 21–23  South Africa 2010 end-of-year test
21 10 November 2012 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 12–16  South Africa 2012 end-of-year test
22 8 November 2014 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 29–15  Ireland 2014 end-of-year test
23 11 June 2016 Newlands, Cape Town 20–26  Ireland 2016 Ireland rugby union tour of South Africa
24 18 June 2016 Ellis Park, Johannesburg 32–26  South Africa
25 25 June 2016 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth 19–13  South Africa
26 11 November 2017 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 38–3  Ireland 2017 end-of-year test

List of series

Played Won by
Won by
South Africa
4 0 4 0
Year Ireland South Africa Series winner
1981 0 2  South Africa
1998 0 2  South Africa
2004 0 2  South Africa
2016 1 2  South Africa


  1. ^ "England 13-19 Ireland". BBC. 6 March 2004. Retrieved 15 November 2006.
  2. ^ "South Africa 31-17 Ireland". BBC. 12 June 2004. Retrieved 15 November 2006.
  3. ^ "South Africa 26-17 Ireland". BBC. 19 June 2004. Retrieved 15 November 2006.
  4. ^ "White makes Irish see red". The Mercury. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  5. ^ "O'Gara inspires historic win". Irish Rugby Football Union. Archived from the original on February 17, 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  6. ^ "Ireland 17-12 South Africa". BBC. 13 November 2004. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  7. ^ "Paul Honiss reacts to the news that Byrce Lawrence won't referee in South Africa". Radio Live New Zealand. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Experimental Bok side goes down". South African Rugby Union. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  9. ^ "Ireland 32-15 South Africa". 2006-11-11. Retrieved 2018-05-15.