Henshaw thrilled with victory
Robbie Henshaw admitted he was relieved to kick-start Ireland's life after Brian O'Driscoll with an impressive 29-15 victory over South Africa.
Connacht centre Henshaw hopes Saturday's stubborn Aviva Stadium win can go some way to diffusing all the talk of now-retired O'Driscoll's long-term successor.
Head coach Joe Schmidt paired Henshaw and Jared Payne in the centres to face the Boks, with Gordon D'Arcy not fully recovered from calf trouble.
The two chief rivals to replace O'Driscoll belied their paltry pre-match tally of just three caps to contain Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers and the fast-rising star Jan Serfontein.
Henshaw said he hopes to draw huge confidence from facing down a "world-class" centre pairing without flinching.
"Yeah the first one was always going to be key, to get the win there," said Henshaw, admitting relief at the result.
"And especially against the number two team in the world, we were delighted to get the win.
"To win out there was certainly a tough task. It was really good to get over the line. It sets us up nicely for the next two weeks.
"The two opposite centres were world-class.
"They've played against the All Blacks, Australia and Argentina in the last few weeks.
"It was good to play against such experienced players and I learned a little bit as well, playing against them."
Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe claimed the tries that led Ireland to their first win over South Africa in five years.
The Springboks hit back through flanker Marcell Coetzee but hooker Adriaan Strauss' yellow card handed Ireland the initiative, with Bowe stealing the winning score.
Wing JP Pietersen ghosted in for a late consolation score for the visitors, but Ireland fully merited victory against the error-strewn Springboks.
Henshaw entered the Springboks fray with just 40 minutes of professional rugby experience at inside centre under his belt, featuring at 12 for half a Connacht clash with Exeter.
The 21-year-old put in a stoic showing alongside debutant Payne in midfield, even providing the pinpoint line punt to force the lineout that yielded Rhys Ruddock's try.
Ireland now host Georgia in Dublin on Sunday before completing their autumn campaign against Australia.
Payne's suspected foot sprain could open the door for D'Arcy to return, and Henshaw hailed the Leinster stalwart for helping him gear up for the inside centre challenge.
Athlone-born Henshaw conceded the tenacious victory proved the perfect result in Ireland's first Dublin Test without the masterful O'Driscoll.
"It is a really good start (to life without O'Driscoll) but I'm not overall happy with it," said Henshaw.
"I can still improve.
"I'm not going to settle for that.
"I need to improve and will strive to improve - keep working away, keep training away - that's my goal.
"Darce (Gordon D'Arcy) gave me a hand to run at 12 during the week.
"He said 'do as you do at 13 but just one slot in'.
"I was quite comfortable: I had two good guys on either side of me, in Johnny Sexton and Jared Payne, two experienced players who kept talking to me all night and helping me out."