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New Documentary Gets Inside Ireland's Historic Summer Win In South Africa

New Documentary Gets Inside Ireland's Historic Summer Win In South Africa
By PJ Browne
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If there's one criticism that you could level at 'What We Did Last Summer', it's simply that it's not long enough - you're left wanting more.

The documentary, which airs at 10.15pm on RTÉ One tonight (November 10th), takes us behind-the-scenes with the Irish rugby team on their tour of South Africa during the summer. It was a tour which saw a landmark victory for Irish rugby - their first ever against the Springboks on South African soil.

The film was created with the aim of giving Irish fans a greater connection with the players - that is certainly achieved. Little insights leave you feeling that you know the players better.


Rory Best was named Ireland captain earlier this year. He found out via a phone call from Joe Schmidt, one the Ireland head coach says was one of the more pleasurable calls he's had to make from a management perspective. On the other end of the line, Best was attempting to portray calm while bursting with joy on the inside - 'I was trying to play it cool but wanted to scream'.

For obvious reasons, the tour was a particularly momentous one for CJ Stander. Though born in South Africa, Keith Earls tells us that his Munster teammate travelled 'as an Irishman'. That thought is further strengthened by Stander's assertion that Limerick is now his home.

Home is where the heart is. For me, that's Limerick. Everything that I own and have is there.


Like the breaks which players get from training to bond off the pitch and lighten the mood, moments of humour intersperse the importance which the tour is given.

'Pet a shark? Like it's a dog or something', exclaims Jamie Heaslip, while recalling a shark diving trip where players are told by instructors that there's to be no messing. A Munster jersey-wearing Ireland fan tells us that he's not donning the green shirt on the day of the first test because 'it got a bit stained last night'. Paddy Jackson's brother pops out for a sandwich, believing the first test to be over following CJ Stander's red card.

That first test at Newlands in Cape Town is the primary focus of the documentary and Stander's red card is a pivotal moment. Jumping back and forth between the game and the Belfast Harlequins Rugby Club - where the parents of Luke Marshall, Paddy Jackson, Iain Henderson and Stuart Olding are watching - we gain an understanding of what's on the line. Rory Best gathers his players into a huddle and instils both calm and motivation to keep going.


We said how special it would be to win with 15 players, imagine how special it would be with 14.

Joe Schmidt calls what follows, especially the defence, 'immense'. When Ireland go down to 13 after Robbie Henshaw yellow carded, Schmidt praises Paddy Jackson for his game management as he knocks over a drop goal when needed.

The final moment of the game stirs memories of Ryan Crotty in the corner at Lansdowne Road two-and-a-half years earlier as JP Pietersen nearly touches down. A collective tackle pushes the South African winger over the line, an effort which makes new defence coach Andy Farrell realise that 'these Boys in Green certainly have balls'.


The two tests which follow - both defeats - are glossed over and that's a pity. An insight into what happened, especially in the second test where Ireland led by 16 points with 20 minutes to go but would lose 32-26, would have been interesting.

Nonetheless, as it finishes with the towering Donnacha Ryan giving a young South African kid Man of the Match after a game in the Missionvale Township, you undoubtedly feel that you know what the Irish rugby team did last summer.

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