Search icon


07th Nov 2014

BOD’s bone-cruncher, Battle of Pretoria and ROG pisses off an entire nation

South Africa and Ireland have served up some fiercely contested scraps in recent years.

Patrick McCarry

Ireland face off against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening (5:30pm kick-off) and both sets of players have been heaping on the mutual praise all week. Relations between the two countries were not always as cosy, however. Here are some of Ireland’s stand-out moments from a 108-year rivalry.

‘It was like a bar of concrete soap’

The seventh meeting between the two nations was in 1965. Ireland were denied a perfectly good try, through Mike Gibson, but rallied to win 9-6 thanks to Tom Kiernan’s kicking prowess. His final penalty just about creeped over the bar but over it skittled. George Hook blamed the Gilbert ball for nervous moments as the ball hurtled towards the posts at Lansdowne Road. ‘It wasn’t just a bar of soap, it was like a bar of concrete soap,’ he chimed.

‘The Battle of Pretoria’

Warren Gatland took over from Brian Ashton in early 1998. His first tour had an old-school feel to it as Ireland played midweek matches against provinces, played two test matches and indulged in the local brew in between.

Taking on the world champions on their home turf would prove a sizeable task for an Ireland squad short on top quality. The tour took a turn for the sinister after the opener against Boland. Reggie Corrigan and James Topping were targeted for heavy hits and flew home injured. Ireland, they felt, were being softened for the test matches. Led by Keith Wood and South African-born captain Dion O’Cuinneagain, Ireland came out swinging in Bloemfontein. They lost 37-13 but emerged with a lot of credit. The Boks met fire with fire – in Pretoria – during one of the dirtiest games in modern history.

‘There was blood everywhere; guys were laid out on the dressing floor after. It was a war-zone,’ South Africa media manager Alex Broun later recalled. The hosts won 33-0 to take the series.

All about ROG

South Africa jetted into Dublin with a team containing Victor Matfield, Percy Montgomery and John Smit. Ireland were evolving into a battle-hardened unit under Eddie O’Sullivan and they roared into the visitors for the opening 20 minutes. There was no reward for their endeavours until Ronan O’Gara took advantage of a scolded Springbok defence. The Boks were content to give away penalties out wide and prevent an Irish score but they were not reckoning on a quick-tap from O’Gara and a short burst to the line. The Munster out-half missed his conversion but nailed a drop goal and three penalties in a 17-12 win.

14g commitment

South Africa were world champions again but arrived in Ireland salivating for revenge. They had lost to O’Sullivan’s boys in 2004 and 2006 and were determined to right some wrongs. Ireland withstood a barrage as best they could during the first-half yet trailed 10-6. Johnny Sexton held his nerve with three second-half penalties to put his side 15-10 up. Ireland could not stretch that lead in the closing stages and were forced, instead to defend for their lives. On the final play of the game, Ruan Pienaar found Zane Kirchner but Brian O’Driscoll arrived a millisecond later to delivering a crunching blow. The hit registered 14gs on O’Driscoll’s GPS and left him flat out as the final whistle blew and confirmed a 15-10 win.


Current record: Played: 21, South Africa: 16, Ireland: 4, Draw: 1.

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?