South Africa battered the British & Irish Lions 27-9 in a fiery second Test Match and level the 2019 Lions Series 1-1 at Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town.
Jacques Nienaber’s charges levelled the series with a dominant display of brute force, iron will, and attacking nous to run out comfortable winners in Green Point.
This is why the Springboks are current World Champions.
They did to the Lions what they did to an overconfident England side in the 2019 World Cup final in Japan.
Had both kickers kicked at 100%, the final score would have been 32-12. Take from that what you will.
This was men versus boys, expert coaching against a brash opponent, left on the canvas following a beatdown.
Mike Tyson famously quipped that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
A week is a long time in sports. Last week the visitors overcame a deficit to outscore the Boks 19-5 in the second half.
This time, South Africa scored 21 unanswered points after a colossal second half as the Lions wilted.
The Lions never looked like scoring, that they have scored just one try in two Tests.
If you take into account the match against South Africa A, Warren Gatland’s team has only crossed twice against a team playing in green and gold.
Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus, pilloried by the UK and Irish media and fans following a contentious first Test marred by terrible officiating, exacted revenge on Gatland.
Erasmus is a rugby coaching genius.
His midweek Vimeo session riled the opposition, who thought they had outsmarted the World Cup-winning coach; instead, normal service resumed.
Gatland’s team had no answers to the wounded Boks seeking revenge. SA bullied the visitors in every facet of play.
The Lions could not match the Boks’ physicality despite trying to get involved in scuffles and verbals in the first half.
The home team’s driving maul clicked, and the backs won the aerial battle. It was almost a complete performance.
This is as bruising a blow to a side build on ego and a false sense of Northern hemisphere superiority, an oxymoron in anyone’s books.
Boks’ backs show their class
Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am both scored second-half tries to overturn a first-half deficit and lead the Springboks to a well-deserved victory.
Mapimpi had a tremendous game, winning a couple of important turnovers to go with his good defensive and aerial work.
He was awarded the Player of the Match for his superb performance.
Handre Pollard kicked five penalties and a conversion for a 17-point haul.
Dan Biggar scored all is team’s points as a blunt British & Irish Lions fell away in the second period.
Despite a shaky opening 40 minutes in the tight phases and set-pieces, the World Champions found their groove, dismantling the tourists’ vaunted pack.
Maro Itoje, last week’s best player, went from Superman to the Invisible Man.
Nullified in the face of a gritty Boks’ forward pack, the England lock had no effect on the game.
Last week the Boks’ bench had no impact, this week the “Bomb Squad” blew away the opposition, and back to their best.
The Boks changed their props and Jasper Wiese added some bulk.
Kwagga Smith’s introduction after PSdT left the field saw the hosts dominate the breakdown.
Pollard and Faf de Klerk out-played their opposite numbers, and the World Cup-winning backline snuffed out a dull Lions attack.
South Africa’s enforcers got the Boks over the gain-line, and as the game went on, the tourists folded without a fight.
Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, and Lood de Jager laid a hammer on Alun Wyn Jones and Co.
Siya Kolisi had a captain’s game. He led from the front, answering his critics with a big game when it mattered.
Kolisi worked with the officials expertly.
He made 14 tackles in a strong display. He also saved a certain try with a last-gasp tackle and rip of Robbie Henshaw.
Most importantly, he kept his head when the scuffles broke out and ill-tempers began to simmer.
Kolisi’s counterpart faded without influence – and was subbed as the Boks took control.
A fierce first half took an hour to complete as cards, injuries and scuffles made for a stop-start affair
The Lions took a slender three-point lead into the break after an ill-tempered first half that saw multiple scuffles and two yellow cards.
Biggar and Pollard traded penalties in a tight, tense opening stanza.
The 31-year-old Welshman kicked three from three, while Pollard’s two from three made it 6-9 at halftime.
Pollard opened the scoring in the fifth minute, Biggar added two pens to give his side the lead in the first quarter.
The 27-year-old Springbok flyhalf missed before levelling on 32 minutes, but Biggar added his third goal on 36 minutes.
Duhan van der Merwe and Cheslin Kolbe both spent time on the naughty step for foul play.
Van der Merwe went first in the 23rd-minute after kicking Kolbe in the ankle.
Kolbe went two minutes later after taking out Connor Murray in the air.
Van der Merwe’s late tackle on Pieter-Steph du Toit earlier in the game injured Du Toit.
The former World Rugby Player of the Year left the field a minute before the Scottish winger’s yellow.
Du Toit’s injury hurt the Boks, who lost two lineouts to Courtney Lawes and last week’s Player of the Match Itoje.
Henshaw thought he had scored just before halftime, but the TMO review could not overturn referee Ben O’Keefe’s call of no try.
O’Keefe, who had a good game, correctly called ‘No try’ after Kolisi stripped Henshaw of the ball as the centre tried to roll and ground the ball.
Springboks start the second half with a bang after Pollard combines with Mapimpi
Last weekend, the Lions began the second half with an early try, this week, the Boks struck first after a well-worked attack following a scrum penalty.
Gatland’s game-plan was to play inside the opposition’s half employing chip-kicks behind the rush-defence and bombs from his halfbacks.
It was ironic that the hosts used the same ploy to get the game’s first try.
Four minutes after the interval, Mapimpi gathered Pollard’s pin-point chip-kick and beat three defenders to score his 15th try in 16 Tests.
The 31-year-old flyer cut inside Anthony Watson, slipped Stuart Hogg’s weak tackle before carrying Jack Conan over the whitewash.
Pollard, who missed two important kicks in the first Test, missed his second kick of the night, but the Boks led by two.
Biggar missed a chance to regain the lead in the 52nd-minute when his kick deflected off the post.
The World Champs increase the tempo and squeeze the Lions to cruise to a comfortable win
The Boks began to assert themselves. At the start of the last quarter, a powerful driving maul was illegally brought down, De Klerk’s clever kick set up his side’s second try.
Am won the chase to De Klerk’s grubber and doted down near the dead-ball line.
After a long TMO review, Am was awarded his fourth Test score. Pollard converted to make it 18-9 with 18 minutes to play.
The Lions’ dour play could not yield any points after the break. They could not break the Boks’ defence, and they began to tire.
Pollard added three penalties in the final nine minutes as the Boks cruised to victory.
The deciding Test is set to be a humdinger. Hang on to your hats.
Final Score: South Africa 27 (6) British & Irish Lions 9 (9)
Tries – Mapimpi, Am
Pen – Pollard (5)
Con – Pollard
Cards – Kolbe (Yellow, 25′)
British & Irish Lions
Pen – Biggar (3)
Cards – Van der Merwe (Yellow, 23′)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZR)
Assistant Referee 1: Nic Berry (RA)
Assistant Referee 2: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (50th Test)
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Marco Van Staden, 21 Albertus Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
British & Irish Lions
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Chris Harris (debut), 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Ali Price, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Elliot Daly