Goalkicker costs Boks as Ireland scrapes home

The fears of the lack of a proper goalkicker came home to haunt the Springboks on Saturday as they went down to Ireland 19-16 in an error-ridden contest.

Ireland scored their 10th straight win at home as they controlled the contest, got away with a lot in the game under some strange calls from Georgian referee Nikola Amashukeli but still were good enough to survive a late fightback by the Boks.

While it would be easy to give the referee a lot of the blame, and his scrum calls in particular were baffling to say the least, it was more the Boks' lack of finishing on attack and using the moments they were offered that cost them in the end.

And the lack of goalkicker was central to it. While Damian Willemse slotted his first penalty, his second was an extremely poor kick and the fears that many fans may have had with Willemse’s goalkicking influencing his general play came true.

From missing a regulation kick to the corner to several other errors, Willemse had a poor day, prompting Cheslin Kolbe to take over the kicking. But that didn’t help either as Kolbe isn’t seen as a frontline kicker and struggled as well.

Another massive clash

In all, the Boks left seven points on the table, but it was more than that. The kicking woes meant the Boks kicked to the corner early on and didn’t build scoreboard pressure, keeping the contest close until Ireland surged to two tries in the second half.

The problem for the Boks is that it doesn’t get easier with France next week and goalkicking will be a big focus this week as they prepare for another massive clash.

The Boks were disrupted more than once illegally, as Ireland not only won the 50-50 calls, but also got away with a lot of gamesmanship during the game that Amashukeli either ignored or didn’t see.

The most blatant moment that shouldn’t have happened at this level was in the second try to Ireland, where a clear forward pass wasn’t even looked at as Mack Hansen ran in the try.

The penalties at the scrum were baffling, especially as for the first half it seemed the referee didn’t want to penalise either side and when he did, he decided that it was the Bok scrum that was infringing, which certainly didn’t look that way for any neutral scrum observer.

Still, the Boks had more than enough opportunities to win the game, and they butchered so many of them. Finishing has been a big problem for the World Cup holders this year and it became costly against Ireland.

Where New Zealand, who have also had a rough year, looked so effortless as they smashed Wales earlier in the day, South Africa looked laboured and struggled to get past the creeping Ireland defence.

In so many ways, their most dangerous attacking plays weren’t foiled by the opposition, but by their own unforced errors.