In what was hyped up as the match of the tournament so far, between two of the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, Andy Farrell’s side battled to a bruising, tense victory, one that leaves them in charge of Pool B.
Manie Libbok’s penalty was for much of the first-half the only time the scoreboard was troubled, but Ireland edged themselves into a 7-3 lead at the break. With the safety net of a penalty advantage, Ireland flung the ball wide and Mack Hansen was left with a routine finish.
The Springboks fought back early in the second-half, aided by the introduction of their ‘Bomb Squad’. A succession of huge scrums set up their first, and only, try of the match, the ball finding Cheslin Kolbe who had half of Paris to himself as he strolled over, though Libbok could not add the extras.
Johnny Sexton restored the Irish lead his penalty edging his side back in front, before the Springboks wasted two opportunites to respond again. Libbok and then Faf de Klerk missed penalties, those poor kicks proving costly.
The Irish spent much of the half camped in their own 22, just about keeping South Africa at bay, but a rare attack brought them a precious three points. Jack Crowley, on for Sexton, was left with the simplest of tasks in front of the posts, leaving Ireland 13-8 in front heading into the final three minutes.
There was still time for a South African lineout deep in the Irish 22, one they claimed and the Springboks maul that followed looked to be marching towards the line. Ireland somehow slowed it down though and, with the ball not playable, the final whistle came to seal a result that felt like so much more than just a pool-stage victory.