South Africa 32-26 Ireland: Springboks take series to a decider
|South Africa (3) 32|
|Tries: Combrinck, Whiteley, du Toit, de Allende Cons: Jantjies 3 Pens: Jantjies 2|
|Ireland (19) 26|
|Tries: Toner, Heaslip Cons: Jackson 2 Pens: Jackson 4|
South Africa staged a stirring comeback in the second Test in Johannesburg to square the three-match series.
Fourteen-man Ireland prevailed in Cape Town last weekend and led 19-3 at half-time at Ellis Park.
But the Springbok replacements injected much-needed urgency and the hosts eventually outscored Ireland four tries to two to deserve their victory.
Ireland were chasing a first series win in South Africa but could still make history in Port Elizabeth next weekend.
If Ireland do win at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, they will also be the first of the four home nations to win a Test series in South Africa.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt denied he was saving players for next Saturday, despite making five changes to the side that started at Newlands.
Meanwhile, Springboks head coach Allister Coetzee made only two changes for his second game in charge - both enforced - despite coming in for some fierce criticism from the South African media.
Boos and whistles
Fly-half Elton Jantjies, starting in place of the injured Patrick Lambie, gave the hosts the lead with an early long-range penalty before Paddy Jackson hit back with two three-pointers of his own.
South Africa had the lion's share of possession in the opening quarter but were frustrated by a combination of handling errors and stout Irish defence.
And when Ireland demolished a Springboks scrum, leading to another straightforward penalty from Jackson, the home crowd was stunned into near silence.
Silence turned to whistles when JP Pietersen infringed at the breakdown and gifted Jackson another three points, before Jantjies missed two makeable penalty kicks in quick succession.
Things got worse for South Africa when Devin Toner crashed over following smart work from Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne, and the Springboks were roundly booed off the pitch at half-time.
The hosts started the second half with more purpose but continued to be undermined by unforced errors.
There was relief when replacement wing Ruan Combrinck bulldozed over in the corner after a slick break by Willie Le Roux, but Ireland hit back immediately with a try from Jamie Heaslip.
However, another rampaging carry by debutant Combrinck created a try for replacement number eight and Lions team-mate Warren Whitely.
When Pieter-Steph du Toit showed tremendous strength to shrug off a slew of tacklers and score under the posts, Ireland were suddenly reeling.
And with Ireland fading fast in the rarefied Johannesburg air, Damian de Allende blasted through some weak tackles to make sure of victory and save Coetzee's blushes.
South Africa: Le Roux; Pietersen, Mapoe, De Allende, Mvovo; Jantjies, De Jager; Mtawarira, Strauss, Malherbe, Etzebeth, du Toit, Louw, Kolisi, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Combrinck for Mvovo (41), Steyn for Jantjies (60), Nyakane for Mtawarira (52), Redelinghuys for Malherbe (47), Mostert for Kolisi (68), Whiteley for Vermeulen (41).
Not Used: Mbonambi, Paige.
Ireland: Payne; Trimble, Henshaw, Olding, Gilroy; Jackson, Murray; McGrath, Best, Furlong, Roux, Toner, Henderson, Ruddock, Heaslip.
Replacements: Madigan for Henshaw (77), Marmion for Murray (78), Strauss for McGrath (66), Kilcoyne for Best (66), Bealham for Furlong (60), Ryan for Roux (51), Reidy for Ruddock (43).
Not Used: O'Halloran.