Ireland v South Africa: Jonathan Sexton hails surprise win

Jonathan Sexton was the orchestrator of Ireland's surprise win over the Springboks
A jubilant Jonathan Sexton celebrates with captain Paul O'Connell after Ireland's surprise win over South Africa

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton hailed an "absolute squad performance" as Ireland stunned South Africa 29-15 to help banish memories of the heartbreaking defeat by New Zealand 12 months ago.

Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe scored Ireland's tries but Sexton was the orchestrator of the surprise win.

"We left it behind us against New Zealand last year and didn't want that to happen again," said Sexton, 29.

"We came in here with a game plan and executed it pretty well."

Sexton enjoyed a 100 per cent return with his goal-kicking as he notched four penalties and two conversions.

Tommy Bowe scored one of Ireland's two tries

But, it was his control of the game that was the most impressive aspect of his display as he conclusively won the fly-half battle against young Springboks star Handre Pollard.

However, the Racing Metro back preferred to focus on Ireland's team performance.

"From one to 23, it was an absolute squad performance.

"It wasn't pretty at times but today was all about getting the victory.

"And it's great with all the players that were missing to pull off a victory against arguably the joint-best team in the world.

"In fairness to the coaches, we are performance driven so matter who is missing. The guys that come in are expected to do a job and thankfully they did that today."

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said his side found it "pretty tough" in the first half, adding: "We got a couple of penalties and Johnny was bang on target.

Rhys Ruddock is tackled by Bismarck du Plessis
Rhys Ruddock, a late Irish replacement for ill Chris Henry, is tackled by Bisrmarck du Plessis

"I take my hat off to the work ethic and the endeavour that the players showed throughout."

Schmidt revealed that try-scorer Ruddock had been told at 10:30 GMT on Saturday morning that he would be starting after Ulster flanker Chris Henry felt unwell overnight.

"I thought Rhys had a massive game. This result is a confidence booster for all the guys who came into the side late."

Schmidt was pleased with the performance of new centre partnership Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw although the New Zealand-born Ulster player was forced to hobble off late on with a suspected foot sprain.

"Robbie gave us a real gain-line threat, and played intelligently," added Schmidt.

"Jared ran a great support line of Rob Kearney at one point and was very quick to get onto that.

"That's the sort of intelligence you want in your backline."

South Africa captain Jean de Villiers criticised his team for squandering a number of try-scoring chances as they lost in Dublin some five weeks after beating world champions New Zealand in Johannesburg.

De Villiers called for immediate focus ahead of next weekend's clash with England at Twickenham.

"We lacked basic, grade-one rugby: catching and passing," he said.

"It's not that we played badly, it's just that we couldn't catch and pass. You've got to give credit to Ireland for the way they played."