South Africa beat Ireland in the third Test to win series 2-1

South Africa Vs Ireland
Ireland have never won a Test series in South Africa

Ireland failed in their bid for a first series win in South Africa as the hosts survived a late assault to win the decisive third Test in Port Elizabeth.

South Africa’s Willie le Roux was lucky to escape with a yellow card for an early tackle on Tiernan O’Halloran.

Luke Marshall’s try put Ireland briefly in the lead but JP Pietersen gathered Elton Jantjies’ cross-field kick to put the Springboks ahead at half-time.

Ireland fought hard but two penalties saw South Africa seal the series 2-1.

The series had been set up for a decider after 14-man Ireland won the first Test in Cape Town, their maiden victory in South Africa, before the Springboks took the second in Johannesburg.

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side started positively in Port Elizabeth, with Marshall scoring after 13 phases, but they faded after the break and a season of 17 international matches looked to have taken its toll before a late revival saw them press hard at the end.

Should Le Roux have seen red?

South Africa Vs Ireland
O’Halloran fell heavily after Le Roux’s challenge

Many felt Springboks full-back Le Roux should have been sent off for his reckless challenge on opposite number O’Halloran.

The Irishman landed heavily on his shoulders but referee Glen Jackson, in conjunction with the television match official, decided a yellow card was sufficient punishment.

In the first Test, Ireland’s CJ Stander was red carded and subsequently banned for one match for an aerial collision with Pat Lambie.

Opportunity missed

The Springboks have Faf de Klerk to thank for keeping their record intact against Ireland.

Penalties from Jantjies and Ruan Combrinck, the latter from inside his own half, looked to have ended Ireland’s challenge.

But three points from Paddy Jackson with 10 minutes remaining reduced the deficit to six points and a rejuvenated Ireland went close twice in the final five minutes.

On both occasions it was scrum-half De Klerk who intervened, first ending a 21-phase move with a crucial interception and then racing out of his line to put in a vital tackle on Keith Earls as the hooter went.

What’s next?

Ireland coach Schmidt’s third year in the job saw his side reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup and finish third in the Six Nations.

His contract runs until the summer of 2017, but he said he would decide whether to stay until the 2019 Rugby World Cup after the completion of this tour.

South Africa, who finished third at the World Cup, have two months off before the start of the Rugby Championship.

What they said

Ireland captain Rory Best told Sky Sports: “It’s been a great series, a really tough series – exactly what we thought it would be. They’re a top side. We came here to win a series, we’ve fallen short now twice, but six points shows how tight the games have been.

“Our boys have fought valiantly. Unfortunately in the last two Tests the Springboks have been a bit more clinical.

“A lot of people wrote us off before we came here but there are some really young players coming through. There are a lot boys to come in. The future of Irish rugby is really bright. We still think we’re good enough to win series like that and eventually we’ll take a look back to find out why we didn’t.”

Ireland: T O’Halloran; A Trimble, L Marshall, S Olding, K Earls; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; I Henderson, D Toner; CJ Stander, J Murphy, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, F Bealham, T Furlong, U Dillane, R Ruddock, E Reddan, I Madigan, M Healy.

South Africa: W le Roux; R Combrinck, L Mapoe, D de Allende, JP Pietersen; E Jantjes, F du Klerk; T Mtawarira, A Strauss (capt), F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, P-S du Toit; F Louw, S Kolisi, W Whiteley.

Replacements: B Mbonambi, S Kitshoff, J Redelinghuys, F Mostert, J Kriel, R Paige, M Steyn, L Mvovo.