Ireland 15-10 South Africa, Croke Park, November 28
O'Driscoll hails Irish work ethic
November 28, 2009
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll takes the attack to South Africa at Croke Park © Getty Images
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll heaped praise on his side after they completed the year unbeaten with a 15-10 victory over South Africa.
The hard-fought win over the Springboks at a packed out Croke Park was Ireland's 10th match without defeat and brought the curtain down on an historic year that included a famous Six Nations Grand Slam.
"This win was very pleasing - it's all about continuing to progress," said O'Driscoll before revealing that their 22-3 mauling at the hands of the All Blacks last November was a key turning point for the side.
"We were in a dark place this time last year and we did a lot of soul searching and there was huge honesty. To turn it around as quickly as we have done is a huge credit to everyone involved, not just players but management too.
"It largely comes down to work ethic. It's hugely important that guys are prepared to put in the hours. It's a huge credit to everyone involved that we've gone a calendar year undefeated."
Jonathan Sexton, making only his second Test appearance, slotted five penalties as Ireland clinched their third successive home win against South Africa. The 24-year-old started ahead of veteran Ronan O'Gara, but head coach Declan Kidney refused to sing his praises too loudly.
"We might have won by more if Ronan was playing. We said 12 months ago we're trying to develop a squad," he said. "We see it as a blessing that we have a world-class fly-half and an up and coming fly-half. We'll need both of them."
Kidney continued, "We finished the series with a win which is good for confidence and we're looking forward to coming back for the Six Nations. We'll enjoy tonight. It was a tough, physical game. The boys were tired but they played very well. We like to play these Tri-Nations teams as often as we can. We learnt more about ourselves today."
Paddy Wallace and Stephen Ferris both sustained ankle injuries with an update expected over the next 48 hours.
South Africa fly-half Morne Steyn missed three penalties and captain John Smit admitted his side needed to be more ruthless.
"We created enough pressure in the first half and kept the scoreboard going," he said. "We wanted to do the same thing in the second half. We wanted to create pressure but didn't follow through.
"You have to kick your penalties. They took their chances but we didn't. We did a lot of damage in the scrum and that gave us a huge amount of impetus. But our lineouts and kicking let us down but ironically those have been our strengths this year."
The match came at the end of an exhausting but successful season for the Springboks and coach Peter de Villiers admitted his players were tired.
"We want to honour rugby and do the best we can," he said. "If we'd picked the second team people would have thought we're looking down on them but maybe we should have rested a few senior players. We must regroup and build on what we've achieved this year."