subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now
The Springboks' RG Snyman offloads in their Rugby World Cup pool B match against Ireland at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night. Picture: CHRISTIAN LIEWIG-CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES
The Springboks' RG Snyman offloads in their Rugby World Cup pool B match against Ireland at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night. Picture: CHRISTIAN LIEWIG-CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

The tale of the tape, if one has to zero in on an enduring sporting quirk, doesn’t always tell the long and the short of it.

The match statistics of SA’s 13-8 defeat to Ireland in Paris on Saturday to a large degree reflects much of the initial post-match analysis, but the numbers rarely reveal the full story.

Much of the post-match debate focused on missed goal kicks as part of the Springboks’ general failure to make opportunities stick.

Goal-kicking aside, the Springboks and Ireland were pretty evenly matched.

They split possession equally with Ireland enjoying 53% of the territory. The Springboks boast better percentages in the scrums and the line-outs.

They were in fact, significantly better than Ireland in the line-out, with the Six Nations champions having to settle for a 67% success rate. Ireland lost six line-outs, the joint-worst in the competition thus far.

The Boks boasted the more dominant scrum across the 80 minutes, but Ireland won two crucial scrum penalties in the second half. They, in fact, directly profited on the scoreboard — a result that again feeds into the narrative that the Boks, for all their huff and puff, could not blow Ireland’s house down.

The story repeats itself in gainline success with the Boks getting across 51% of the time with Ireland, despite Bundee Aki’s legs of thunder, well behind on 41%.

Ireland, however, got a sniff more often with 10 red zone entries compared to the Boks’ six.

That perhaps speaks volumes of the Springboks’ last-gasp defence that Ireland only scored one try. Ireland went through 35 phases in the Bok red zone. Rassie Erasmus, SA’s director of rugby, was keen to point out Ireland, with their all consuming, multi-phased attack, are rarely limited to just 13 points.

The Boks’ 30 dominant tackles in a game are 11 more than the second-most (Japan vs Chile) and double that of the third-most (Ireland vs Tonga). Siya Kolisi led the way with four.

While matching their average turnovers lost per game (18) they did that from 15 fewer possessions, meaning their positive outcome return of 49% was significantly lower than their tournament average and the third worst of any team in any game (only Namibia and Chile in the third round of games were worse).

The Boks, however, conceded too many penalties on defence.

Where Ireland did lay significant groundwork for their path to success was at the breakdown. Flank and world player of the year Josh van der Flier was outstanding, and he was ably backed up by No 8 Caelan Doris.

Their Bok counterparts were less effective and though he was a willing and able ball-carrier, Jasper Wiese perhaps does not have the to-the-ball nous of Duane Vermeulen. Kolisi was not allowed to create the havoc he is known for in that area of combat.

Ireland’s 18 turnovers compared to the Springboks’ 12 draws a clear line in the sand.

Where the Boks perhaps surprisingly trumped Ireland was the speed at which they got their ball from the ruck averaging 4.08 sec compared to 4.83, with 28% of those arriving at under 2 sec for SA, compared to Ireland's 16%.

That perhaps again underlines a failure to drive home their advantage.

Generally speaking, the Boks need to up their conversion rate.

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.