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Best Boks v Ireland: Ox, Pollard Heroics Not Enough

The power of Ox Nche and precision of Handre Pollard weren’t enough for the Springboks as Ireland snatched a dramatic 25-24 victory at the death in Durban on Saturday to square the two-Test series, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Springboks

The power of Ox Nche and precision of Handre Pollard weren’t enough for the Springboks as Ireland snatched a dramatic 25-24 victory at the death in Durban on Saturday to square the two-Test series, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

It was a bloodbath at Kings Park with Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert wearing crimson masks while on Ireland’s end, Andrew Porter and Jack Crowley were busted open.

It was the Boks who came off second best in the physical exchanges in the first half, losing Willie le Roux and Mostert to injury, and they found themselves trailing 16-6 at halftime.

Ireland’s discipline and resolve were tested in the second half as the Boks came on strong. A yellow card for Irish captain Caelan Doris helped the hosts chip away and hit the front for the first time in the 57th minute.

It was tight for the remainder of the game with replacement flyhalf Ciaran Frawley landing two drop goals to secure just the second-ever win for Ireland over the Boks on South African soil.

Our top three Springbok standouts were:

Ox Nche

It’s apropos that a Test that saw the legendary Tendai Mtawarira return to his former rugby home as South Africa’s flag-bearer was dominated by the man wearing the Springbok No. 1 jersey.

Nche went full beast mode at scrum time, his explosive power in the set piece essentially keeping the Boks in the game. Their first six points were the result of Nche’s scrummaging prowess, while he had a massive game in general play as well.

He made three huge hits, one on Doris and two on Jamie Osborne, the latter smattering of the Irish fullback resulting in a turnover, while the man mountain’s mobility was also on display as he covered vast distances on defence, including mopping up a dangerous chip.

Finally, the front-rower showed great hands to hold onto Grant Williams’ pass before he made way to plenty of praise in the 57th minute.

Handre Pollard

After an off-colour second-half goal-kicking display at Loftus Versfeld, Pollard came up clutch at sea level, slotting them from everywhere and scoring all 24 of the Boks’ points.

The veteran sharpshooter had ice in his veins, his eight out of eight masterclass off the tee almost taking South Africa to a series victory. His general play wasn’t as perfect, to put it mildly, but without his metronomic boot, the Boks wouldn’t have had a prayer on the night.

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu

Thrown into the fire after just two minutes with Le Roux going off due to a head knock, the pressure could easily have gotten to a rookie like Feinberg-Mngomezulu. Instead, he emerged as one of the Bok standouts, displaying composure well beyond his years and experience.  

The 22-year-old ignited the Boks’ second-half challenge with an extraordinary counter-attack, made another break with his fancy feet, showed the variation in his game by rolling a grubber into touch five metres from the Irish try line and doubled up on tackles.

He made some errors in judgment at the death, but it was nonetheless a fine performance by the blue-chipper.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at SARugby.com and senior staff writer at Rugby365.com, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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