At the Stade de France the world’s number one and two sides locked horns in a gladiatorial defensive contest with just two tries scored, one apiece. Ireland came out on top by 13-8 to take control of Pool B.
The intensity of the clash was at such a standard that many have predicted the two sides will meet again, which would only be possible in the World Cup final. Even lock Eben Etzebeth suggested they would get them next time “if” Ireland made it through.
But ex-All Black Wilson, who caused a stir with his comments after the Twickenham Test by saying South Africa played “as best as they possibly could”, flatly rejected the idea of an Ireland-South Africa final.
“No, because we are not in it,” Wilson responded to host Kirstie Stanway when asked if this would be the final on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown.
“When it comes to a situation when it is a knockout game, essentially what it was for Wales and Australia, pressure changes the whole context of everything.
“Don’t get me wrong, this was a great contest and we saw plenty of it, but I think it gives you an idea of what it is going to take to win a Rugby World Cup.
“Both of these two teams went into this game and they turned down points, and I can’t see that happening when you get to a genuine knockout game.
“This was a positioning game, all this was.”
“We’ve still got a job to do against Italy, we can take nothing for granted. They are a Six Nations side,” he said.
“But I think we now know what South Africa and Ireland are capable of.”
Sir John Kirwan said that Ireland answered questions about their legitimacy as the number one ranked side and labelled them now “the side to knock over”.
For the defending champion Springboks he was brutally honest saying that they had “taken a step back” and the weaknesses in their game were exposed by the Irish.
“I think it was confirmation of the rankings. We’ve said that Ireland are the best coming in, had they really been tested?” Kirwan asked.
“Yes and no, but that was their really big Test and they are the number one side to knock over and we’ve got to knock them over.
“I thought it was a step backwards for South Africa. I think we saw some weakness in their game, which I think is a good thing. Obviously their kicking they need to sort out, they left a few points on the patch.
“But if New Zealand play Ireland it is going to be that kind of match. It’s going to be close and you have to take your opportunities, win those special moments.
“But we are good enough. We are good enough.”
Wilson saw the funny side of Kirwan’s assessment after the backlash he received, “I’m smiling right now because it’s him that’s criticised South Africa. It won’t be me that’s copping it,” he joked, but Kirwan did not back down from his assessment of the Springboks.
“They took a step backwards, they looked under pressure at times and they didn’t look as confident as they have in the past. And that’s pressure right.”
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