South Africa beat Ireland 27-20 in Pretoria

Kurt-Lee Arendse scored the opening try for South Africa
Kurt-Lee Arendse scored the opening try for South Africa
©Photo by Michael Steele - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

South Africa 27-20 Ireland, Pretoria

South Africa managed to hold off late fightback from Ireland as they sealed a thrilling 27-20 in the opening game of the two-match series in Pretoria on Saturday.

This was also South Africa's first game since their victorious 2023 World Cup campaign and the first since Rassie Erasmus has taken in charge of the side following the stepping down of Jacques Nienaber.

The Springboks opened their account in the third minute as Willie Le Roux, Jesse Kriel and Siya Kolisi combined to send Kurt-Lee Arendse going over the line for the first try and Handre Pollard kicked the conversion to make it 7-0.

Ireland had an opportunity to respond as Ox Nche was penalised for not rolling away and Jack Crowley kicked the penalty goal to make it 13th minute but his effort was negated when Kolisi tackled Robbie Henshaw dangerously allowing Pollard to kick a three-pointer of his own making it 10-3.

Around the half-hour mark, Andrew Porter tackled Faf de Klerk at the base of the ruck to win another penalty goal that Pollard kicked to extend the Springboks' lead to 13-3 before Jamie Osborne scored on his debut as he collected an offload from Kolbe to touchdown but Crowley missed out on the conversion making it 13-8 by the end of the opening half.

The scores were levelled by the end of the third quarter as James Lowe showed great pace to dive in the left corner but was disallowed as the gap between the teams continued to remain at five points. The 63rd minute saw Craig Casey leave the field with a blow.

The Boks extended the lead back to 10 points as Kolbe pounced on a loose ball to dive over for their second try and after missing three kicks in a row, Pollard kicked the conversion to make it 20-8. The 74th minute saw Arendse sin-binned for repeated offence as Conor Murray dotted down to make it a five point game.

The decisive moment came in the 78th minute when the home side were awarded a penalty try that also resulted in a yellow card for Kelleher with their lead of 27-15 proved enough despite Ryan Baird's late try.

Team line up:

South Africa: le Roux; Kolbe, Kriel, de Allende, Arendse; Pollard, de Klerk; Nche, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (c), du Toit, Smith.

Reserves: Marx, Steenkamp, Koch, Moerat, Snyman, van Staden, Williams, Feuinberg-Mngomezulu.

Ireland: Osborne; Nash, Henshaw, Aki, Lowe; Crowley, Casey; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, McCarthy, Beirne, O’Mahony (c), van der Flier, Doris.

Reserves: Kelleher, Healy, Bealham, Ryan, Baird, Murray, Frawley, Ringrose.