Two areas likely to seal Ireland's fate against South Africa
A resounding win over Tonga will have pleased Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, but heading into Saturday's crunch match with South Africa, two areas will need close attention; the penalty count and the breakdown.
In round 1, every team that conceded more 10 penalties lost the game. In one of the most anticipated games of the World Cup, France only conceded four penalties against New Zealand.
The penalty count is a reflection of your team discipline and decision making, as well as the swing of pressure within the game.
When you’re under pressure, players have less time to make decisions around the breakdown, less time to get off the line in defence so they’re scrambling more and generally play more of the game in their own half.
Ireland conceded an average of 8.8 penalties per game across the 2023 Six Nations on their way to a Grand Slam. For more context, Scotland conceded 10 against South Africa and were never in the game.
The Springboks are one of the best sides at applying pressure in different ways. Whether they want to squeeze the opposition with a kick pressure strategy, or increase the pace with their attacking game, they will cause havoc if Ireland are to concede 10+ penalties like they did against Tonga.
Penalties either mean easy exits for the opposition out of their own half, or easy entries towards your 22 meter line, both of which would have a serious impact on any game.
The second area that could be worrying for Ireland is their attacking breakdown.
Notwithstanding the lowly opposition, Ireland enjoyed the fastest ruck speed in the tournament in the opening round.
Farrell’s men had the fastest ruck speed in the 2022 Six Nations, second best in this year’s competition to Italy.
You can see the way Ireland play the