This epic match more than matched the billing and hype and I share my colleague Derek Williams’ viewpoint that the Boks should be beaten.
Their bomb squad of 7 forwards attracted a lot of attention though few pointed out that – in the absence of Malcolm Marx – they did not have a specialist hooker on the bench; that Manie Libbok is not reliable enough off the tee; and that Ireland have an excellent pack more than capable of dealing with everything thrown at them.
They also had 30,000 noisy, fervent, fans at the Stade De France.
The power play of the Boks does not turn this lady on but the impish Faf du Klerk and the rugged but skilful Eben Etzebeth do and, once they were subbed, I could not see a South African victory
As expected the encounter was one of intense physicality.
In the first half Ireland’s line outs were poor but so was South Africa’s penalty kicking.
Ireland have a world class front row – are strong in the boiler room of second row – and possess a brilliant back row of O’Mahoney, Van der Flier and Doris.
In the second half Bandee Aki was effective with the crash ball.
Although Ireland have produced more than their fair share of world class players (Tom Kiernan, Mike Gibson, Willie John McBride, Tony Ward, Ollie Campbell, Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll, to name but a few) I have often thought their set-up lacks professionalism.
For me the typical Irish player was Moss Keane – liked a drink, did a job but essentially an amateur troubadour.
All that image has gone as they have Leinster, one of 4 provincial sides, that are a conveyor belt of home grown talent.
They are rightly the best-rated team in the world.
It was credit to them that in the face of the Bomb Squad hype they kept their powder dry and did the business on the pitch.
They still have to overcome Scotland next Saturday but it’s looking like a quarter final v the All Blacks. New Zealand are more of a an all round side than the Boks but I would take Ireland to beat them.
As for England, the Marcus Smith experiment worked well but Chile are the weakest team in the tournament.