The Ireland and South Africa rugby union teams have a rivalry dating back to 1906. The Springboks of South Africa dominated their early meetings, as have the other southern hemisphere giants, with the Irish winning just once against South Africa prior to 2004, but results have since turned in Ireland's favour, winning eight of the twelves matches between the sides since 2004. Following Ireland's tour win over New Zealand in 2022, South Africa are the only major Southern Hemisphere team over which Ireland has not achieved a series victory.

In 2023, in their first ever Rugby World Cup meeting, and first meeting on neutral soil, Ireland (ranked number one in the world) prevailed 13-8 over (defending champions and world ranked number two) South Africa, the first time first and second in the world rankings had ever met at the pool stages of a Rugby World Cup.

Since South Africa's return to international rugby in 1995 following the end of apartheid in South Africa, the nations have played 20 times, with South Africa leading by 12 wins to eight.

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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".[5]

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.[citation needed]

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.[6][7]

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.[8]

2006 Autumn Internationals

On Saturday, 11 November 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 André 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 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.[9][10]

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.

2010 Autumn International

The teams' meeting on 6 November 2010 was the first Ireland test at their new home of Aviva Stadium, where Ireland lost 23–21.[11]

2016 Ireland tour of South Africa

In 2016, Ireland achieved their first test victory against the Springboks in South Africa with a 26–20 victory in Cape Town.[12]

2023 Rugby World Cup meeting

The two teams' first meeting at the Rugby World Cup (RWC) took place in the pool stage of the 2023 edition on 23 September at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. The fixture, largely considered to be a decider as to who would win the pool and the number one spot in the world ranking,[13] was won by Ireland, 8–13.[14] Ireland then relinquished the number 1 spot when they were knocked out by New Zealand in the Quarter Finals. Meanwhile, South Africa went on to win the World Cup.

Summary

Overall

Details Played Won by
Ireland
Won by
South Africa
Drawn Ireland points South Africa points
In Ireland 17 7 9 1 254 265
In South Africa 10 1 9 0 145 257
Neutral venue 1 1 0 0 13 8
Overall 28 9 18 1 412 530

Results

No. Date Venue Score Winner Competition Attendance Ref.
1 24 November 1906 Balmoral Showgrounds, Belfast 12–15  South Africa 1906–07 South Africa tour of Europe 15,000 [15]
2 30 November 1912 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 0–38  South Africa 1912–13 South Africa tour of Europe 20,000 [16]
3 19 December 1931 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 3–8  South Africa 1931–32 South Africa tour of Great Britain and Ireland 35,000 [17]
4 8 December 1951 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 5–17  South Africa 1951–52 South Africa tour of Europe 47,000 [18]
5 17 December 1960 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 3–8  South Africa 1960–61 South Africa tour of Europe 40,000 [19]
6 13 May 1961 Newlands Stadium, Cape Town 24–8  South Africa 1961 Ireland tour of South Africa 35,000 [20]
7 10 April 1965 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 9–6  Ireland 1965 South Africa tour of Scotland and Ireland 30,000 [21]
8 10 January 1970 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 8–8   draw 1969–70 South Africa tour of Great Britain and Ireland 28,000 [22]
9 30 May 1981 Newlands Stadium, Cape Town 23–15  South Africa 1981 Ireland tour of South Africa 37,000 [23]
10 6 June 1981 Kings Park Stadium, Durban 12–10  South Africa 38,600 [24]
11 13 June 1998 Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein 37–13  South Africa 1998 Ireland tour of South Africa 26,000 [25]
12 20 June 1998 Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria 33–0  South Africa 34,850 [26]
13 28 November 1998 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 13–27  South Africa 1998 South Africa tour of Great Britain and Ireland 48,000 [27]
14 19 November 2000 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 18–28  South Africa 2000 Autumn International 50,000 [28]
15 12 June 2004 Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein 31–17  South Africa 2004 Ireland tour of South Africa 37,243 [29]
16 19 June 2004 Newlands Stadium, Cape Town 26–17  South Africa 45,000 [30]
17 13 November 2004 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 17–12  Ireland 2004 Autumn International 48,500 [31]
18 11 November 2006 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 32–15  Ireland 2006 Autumn International 43,000 [32]
19 28 November 2009 Croke Park, Dublin 15–10  Ireland 2009 Autumn International 74,950 [33]
20 6 November 2010 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 21–23  South Africa 2010 Autumn International 35,517 [34]
21 10 November 2012 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 12–16  South Africa 2012 Autumn International 49,781 [35]
22 8 November 2014 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 29–15  Ireland 2014 Autumn International 51,100 [36]
23 11 June 2016 Newlands Stadium, Cape Town 20–26  Ireland 2016 Ireland tour of South Africa 42,640 [37]
24 18 June 2016 Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg 32–26  South Africa 58,400 [38]
25 25 June 2016 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth 19–13  South Africa 42,324 [39]
26 11 November 2017 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 38–3  Ireland 2017 Autumn International 51,700 [40]
27 5 November 2022 Aviva Stadium, Dublin 19–16  Ireland 2022 Autumn International 51,700 [41]
28 23 September 2023 Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France 8–13  Ireland 2023 Rugby World Cup 78,750 [42]
29 6 July 2024 Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria 2024 Ireland tour of South Africa
30 13 July 2024 Kings Park Stadium, Durban

List of series

South Africa and Ireland teams posing together at their 1912 test at Lansdowne Road.
Played Won by
Ireland
Won by
South Africa
Drawn
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

References

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