No panic for Ireland despite latest setback

Irelands' Chris Henry and South Africas Duane Vermeulen
Irelands' Chris Henry and South Africas Duane Vermeulen
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Tommy Bowe insists Ireland are refusing to panic despite slumping to their worst losing sequence for 14 years.

The injury-ravaged Irish were outfought 16-12 by South Africa in their Guinness Series opener, a result that raises the stakes yet higher for their critical showdown with Argentina in two weeks.

Leading 12-3 at the interval and playing all the rugby at the Aviva Stadium, they had the lacklustre Springboks by the jugular.

But they were overpowered in the second half as South Africa inflicted a fifth successive Test defeat on a team that Bowe insists remains in high spirits.

“There really isn’t a feeling that the team is going through a difficult period at the moment,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of confidence in the squad over the last couple of weeks, certainly with the work we’ve been doing in training.

“Everyone was upbeat and was looking forward to South Africa. I felt that we’d go after them and win – we’d targeted this match. Having lost it we’ll have to reassess that.

“It was a disappointing defeat because we had set ourselves up perfectly in the first half.

“We’ve worked so hard as a team to build a bond, get the intensity and accuracy up.

“It showed at times against South Africa, but when it counted in the second half we weren’t able to pull it out.”

Ireland had won three of their last four Tests against South Africa and knew they had wasted a great chance to extend their recent mastery of the southern hemisphere giants.

Jonathan Sexton’s four penalties were an insufficient return for their first-half superiority and once the canny Springboks had cranked up their power game, Ireland were muscled out of contention.

A pivotal moment was captain Jamie Heaslip’s yellow card for collapsing a maul as his line came under attack in the 43rd minute when Ireland led 12-3.

In his absence South Africa scored 10 points to establish a lead they retained throughout a dominant second half.

With Lions captains Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell injured, as well as the influential Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien, Heaslip will be looking to provide the spark of inspiration needed against Fiji and Argentina.

Bowe added: “We’re looking forward to Fiji next week and then obviously we have a massive match against Argentina.

“It’s a case of getting the job done.”