The Springboks won a pulsating and drama-filled Test by 27-20 against Ireland at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

In front of 50,066 spectators the Boks held a 13-8 lead at the break and apart from a dominating opening 30 minutes, it was not the smoothest win ever, but a seven-point margin over the second ranked team in the world is not something to sniff at.

There were times where the Boks were sublime, but they were also guilty of too many unforced errors, especially in the second half. When they did it right though, the Boks were spectacular, like with their first try scored in the opening spell of the match and what a delightful effort it was.

The Boks kept the ball though several phases and varied angles of attack, with a strong run by Pieter-Steph du Toit on the right flank committing more defenders than planned by the Irish defence.

When the ball was worked back to the left, Jesse Kriel exploited the space and a final pass by Siya Kolisi later, Kurt-Lee Arendse cut inside two defenders to score. Handre Pollard kicked the conversion, and the Boks were off to the perfect start in front of a sold-out and partisan crowd.

The Boks fluffed the restart though handing Ireland the ball. They attacked with everything they had and was stopped numerous times near the Bok line. The Boks were penalised for killing the ball and Ireland opted from a tap penalty five meters out. Brilliant defence forced the visitors into a handling error though and the Boks could feed the first scrum of the match.

It was a wobbly one but a brilliant clearance by Cheslin Kolbe with no angle to work with moved play to the halfway line. The Boks were penalised again at a ruck and this time Jack Crowley went for the posts. He slotted the 40m kick for Ireland's first points.

The Boks were applying good pressure at this stage and had Ireland on the back foot, forcing the visitors into relieving kicks from their red zone. The Boks attacked well from the resulting lineouts, but the Irish defence held firm.

The same could not be said of their discipline under pressure and when Joe McCarthy were penalised for hands in the ruck, Pollard slotted his first penalty goal from 35m out and the lead was back to seven after 15 minutes.

The Boks kept up the pressure with some delightful ball in hand play. Du Toit was used with good effect in the wider channels and almost got Kolbe away for a try but some desperate Ireland defence held sway. There was no doubt though that the Bok pressure would yield some results and when Andrew Porter was pinged for hands in the ruck, Pollard kicked an easy three pointer to make it 13-3 after 29 minutes.

Ireland managed to get ball in hand after the restart and when Bongi Mbonambi was penalised for a ruck infringement, Crowley stepped forward, but his kick went wide, much to the delight of the crowd.

Jesse Kriel was ruled offside shortly after and this time Ireland went to the corner for an attacking lineout. They held onto the ball through numerous phases and a well-timed inside pass by James Lowe found fullback Jamie Osborne who scored in the corner. Crowley missed the conversion from a tight angle, but the lead was only five.

Pollard pushed a long-range effort to the right near the end of the half, a rare miss that would have justified the dominance the home side had in the first half and especially the opening 30 minutes.

The second half started promising enough with a strong surge by the Springboks following an attacking lineout, but a handling error allowed the Irish to relieve pressure. The Irish chanced their arm at the breakdown and when Luke Pearce had enough, Pollard stepped up, but again pushed it wide, much to the disbelief of the crowd.

The Bomb Squad were called into action in the 49th minute with all of Malcolm Marx, Gerhard Steenekamp, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, RG Snyman and Marco Van Staden taking the field – with a scrum their first engagement.

They conceded a scrum penalty though and allowed Ireland more attacking opportunities. The Irish spilled the ball, allowing the Springboks to press hard, but a handling error gave the Irish respite.

Those handling errors were starting to slow the Bok momentum down, much to the frustration of the crowd and relief for the Irish as those were unforced by nature.

A turnover at the breakdown gave Lowe too much space down the blind and he raced away to score, but a TMO intervention handed the Springboks a penalty instead. Pollard lined up another long-range effort, but that also failed to hit the target.

Both sides replaced their scrumhalves as well, albeit for different reasons. Grant Williams came on for Faf de Klerk for tactical reasons before Conor Murray made his way onto the field to replace Craig Casey after he took a knock to the head with just under 20 minutes to go.

The injury resulted in a five-minute delay and it was clear that the game needed something special to spark back to life again. That was provided in spectacular fashion by Cheslin Kolbe.

Lowe tried to keep a Pollard touch finder in play and Kolbe pounced, kicking it ahead into the in-goal area and won the race to the ball. TMO Ben Whitehouse had a long look, but the try stood. Pollard found his groove again, kicking the conversion from near the touchline, and suddenly the Boks had their field dominance and scoreboard lead matching up with a 20-8 lead.

Ireland are not the second best ranked side in the world for nothing though and kept in the fight in the last quarter of the match. Kurt-Lee Arendse was yellow carded with seven minutes to go, deemed to be offside at a ruck near his line. James Ryan was held up over the line and from the resulting goal line drop out, the Irish made it count when Murray found an inside pass to score. Crowly converted and suddenly the lead was back to five points.

Lowe made another judgement error from a deep restart by Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who replaced Pollard. Lowe's error handed the Boks a scrum five meters out and they totally demolished the Irish pack, resulting in a penalty try.

Replacement flanker Ryan Baird scored with two minutes to go when the Irish outflanked the Bok defence and suddenly the lead was back to seven only, with a minute to play. The Irish had one more go, but a spilled pass brought a crazy night of rugby to an end.

Springboks 27 (13) [Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Cheslin Kolbe, Penalty try. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2). Penalty goals: Pollard (2)] Ireland 20 (8) [Tries: Jamie Osborne, Conor Murray, Ryan Baird. Conversion: Jack Crowley. Penalty goal: Crowley]

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

Ireland: 15 Jamie Osborne, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ciaran Frawley, 23 Garry Ringrose.

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

[Courtesy of www.sarugby.co.za/news-features]