Ireland count the cost

Battle of attrition leaves its scars on the tourists who now have backs to the wall

Ireland scrumhalf Craig Casey delivers a clearing kick with Eben Etzebeth in close attendance at Loftus on Saturday. Casey was later stretchered off the field and is a doubtful starter for the second Test.
Ireland scrumhalf Craig Casey delivers a clearing kick with Eben Etzebeth in close attendance at Loftus on Saturday. Casey was later stretchered off the field and is a doubtful starter for the second Test.
Image: Anton Geyser (Gallo Images)

Ireland lost a battle of attrition in Pretoria and were left to count the cost as they head to Durban for next weekend's second Test.

Injuries to star hooker Dan Sheehan, veteran centre Robbie Henshaw and scrumhalf Craig Casey may negatively affect their selections as they go in search of a win to square the series.

The influential Sheehan sustained a knee injury in Ireland's 27-20 defeat at Loftus Versfeld and will likely miss the second Test. That will be a huge blow to Irish aspirations of levelling the series.

There is concern too for the injuries suffered by Henshaw, who was involved in a number of bone-rattling collisions and the sprightly Casey who was stretchered off.

He’s concussed,” confirmed Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. “He was still on the trolley when I came in at the end so obviously it was concerning enough but he was up and walking around, not quite himself, yet but he’s up and about and wondering what’s going on.”

The manner in which Casey sustained his injury will be just one of many flashpoints for Farrell to pore over.

The coach may feel his team did not get the rub of the green but was careful not to go beyond the word 'dubious' in describing some of the match officials' decisions.

Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t. You’ll make your own decision on the Craig thing,” said Farrell.

It’s not for me to say but I saw quite a few of them live and had a dubious thought about it but anyway, that’s life.

We will go through the right channels and make sure we do things properly as far as those things are concerned. You’ll make of it what you want.”

Ireland had James Lowe's 60m touchdown chalked off after a TMO ruling, and they were on the wrong end of another decision involving the winger when Cheslin Kolbe benefited from some Irish generosity.

Lowe attempted to keep a Handré Pollard touch finder in play and succeeded only in knocking it in the always speeding Kolbe's path.

It was a special play by Kolbe to chase that ball and it’s one of the reasons why they won the World Cup with him chasing down the kicker in France, but we were slack not backing James up,” explained Farrell.

You’ll make your own decision on whether he still had the ball in his right hand or whether the ball hit him as he threw it back into the field and his foot was in touch.

That’s for us all to debate. It is what it is, that is the sport, it’s difficult to referee. You just want consistency, that’s all,” Farrell said.

Lowe, a perennially wholehearted, full-throttle operator cruelly also had a hand in the Boks' penalty try that effectively took the match beyond Ireland. It was his knock-on that presented the Boks the opportunity for one final push.

Farrell was gracious about the Springboks' first win over Ireland since 2016.

It had a little bit of everything. The unexpected was popping up at times, and that was the difference, but South Africa deserved to win the game. Congratulations to them.

We were off the first half, and we gave away access for them to play their game. Defensively we were a bit passive, especially for the first try. It was courageous at times how we defended and got ourselves back into the game.”

Despite the injuries and the defeat Farrell is pleased with his team's effort, especially their mental fortitude.

“After a few words at halftime, the story of the game is the courageous effort that brought us back into the game. That is the makeup of this team.

“Even with the type of performance. We don't go away. Many teams under the pump in the first half would be blown away in the second,” noted Farrell.


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