MIKE BROWN: Stuart Hogg was awful under South African high balls while Eben Etzebeth smashed Lions
South Africa produced a dominant, physically imposing performance to outpower the British and Irish Lions in the second Test in Cape Town.
The Springboks secured a 27-9 victory after last week’s 22-17 Lions win, setting up a mouth-watering series decider in the third match.
Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am scored the tries before fly-half Handre Pollard kicked them out of sight, with Eben Etzebeth and Pollard coming to the fore as Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg wilted under the Boks’ aerial bombardment.
Here, Sportsmail’s Mike Brown rated the players on a sobering day for Warren Gatland’s side.
WARREN GATLAND – 6
Not selecting Liam Williams in the 23-man squad was a mistake. The Lions lost the aerial battle, which was always going to be a threat from South Africa.
Gatland had nothing to fall back on the bench to win the game in the air. His game-plan had too much kicking, and was too slow, which played into South Africa’s hands.
15 STUART HOGG – 4
Aerially was awful under the high-balls South Africa put up all night – look uncertain from the start – which the Boks picked all their scraps off. Liam Williams must play the decider so the Lions can win the aerial battle.
14 ANTHONY WATSON – 5
Threw his only first-half carry out of play and poor in the air like the rest of the back-three. Only touched the ball twice in the whole 80 minutes – the second of which was right at the end of the game.
Scottish pair Stuart Hogg (left) and Duhan van der Merwe (right) were poor for the Lions
13 CHRIS HARRIS – 6.5
Does the basics so well every time – hit opposite number Am brilliantly first up to set the tone – and was far more solid than Daly was last week, so should stay for the 3rd Test next week. Quiet but did his job.
12 ROBBIE HENSHAW – 6.5
Should have scored his first-half try, but denied incredibly by Kolisi’s tackle. Tried to carry hard in the midfield – with 27 metres made from six attempts, and completed eleven tackles without missing a single one.
11 DUHAN VAN DER MERWE – 4
Silly yellow card for the trip on Kolbe in the first-half. The back-three was the Lions’ weakest point, where Gatland must make changes. Only touched the ball once. I would bring in Josh Adams for him.
10 DAN BIGGAR – 6.5
Array of varied kicks – high and low – had South Africa under pressure, executing the Lions’ gameplan. Missed one penalty before Farrell replaced him, which he’d usually get and would have kept the pressure on South Africa.
British and Irish Lions fly-half Dan Biggar (third right) had a mixed game, missing a key kick
9 CONOR MURRAY – 6.5
Did exactly what he was brought in to do – kick well, control the tempo. Nearly set up Henshaw try with a lovely chip. Needs to increase the tempo at times and vary the Lions’ attacking game, which Ali Price could have brought.
1 MAKO VUNIPOLA – 8
Solid in the scrum against Malherbe, and was the Lions’ main carrier to get them over the gainline on eight occasions, making inroads every time in the loose. Seven tackles and none missed in defence.
2 LUKE COWAN-DICKIE – 7.5
Far better throwing in the lineout and nine physical carries as we’ve come to expect from the Cornishman. The main focal-point for the Lions’ forward carrying game in the first half with nine charges.
Alun Wyn Jones (left) and Maro Itoje (right) did well at first but were outgunned after the break
3 TADHG FURLONG – 7
Kept the scrum solid until Sinckler came on before the hour mark, against Steven Kitshoff, and defended well, making all six of his tackles. The South African bench props did well after Furlong went off.
4 MARO ITOJE – 7.5
The Lions’ talisman led from the front in every respect – exactly as he did last week. Two first-half lineout steals in the first half but struggled to make an impact once the Bok pack took over the game with their replacements.
5 ALUN WYN JONES – 7
Nuisance all over the field, riling up the Boks, but like Itoje was overpowered when the ‘Bomb squad’ came on to beat the Lions up. His leadership will be key this week for the decider in the third Test. He has done it before in 2013, though.
The Lions’ hopes of sealing a famous Test series triumph were buried under an aerial onslaught
6 COURTNEY LAWES – 6.5
Banged the Boks in defence and carried so physically. He’s a great lineout option too, but was quiet in the second-half like the rest of the Lions’ front-five as de Jager dominated off the bench. Nine tackles from the back-row.
7 TOM CURRY – 7
Smashed South Africans in defence in the first-half, putting pressure on South Africa with quick line-speed. But the breakdown became a mess in the second half, which is a concern for the Lions going into next week.
8 JACK CONAN – 6
Needs to have more impact on a big Test match from No 8. He made just three metres from seven carries. I’d be tempted to go with the experience of Faletau in the 3rd and final Test next Saturday.
JACQUES NIENABER – 8
His game-plan was spot on. The Springboks had far more variations in attack than last week and they exposed the Lions back-three so well. He didn’t make the same mistake of changing the front-row too early like last week either.
15 Willie Le Roux – 7.5
Full-back pulled the strings in attack to add variation and width. Covered the back-field well and was right at the heart of a number of scraps between the teams too. His relationship with Pollard is key for the Boks.
Cheslin Kolbe (No 14) was lucky to escape a red for taking out Conor Murray (top) in the air
14 Cheslin Kolbe – 6
Lucky to get away with just a yellow for taking out Murray in the air, and was not penalised for a head-clash with Curry. Still yet to see his dazzling feet in this Test series where he’s touched the ball only five times.
13 Lukhanyo Am – 6.5
Very quiet, in my opinion, apart from finishing the key try, collecting a wonderful kick from de Klerk. He made only three carries and did not gain a single metre with ball-in-hand, but was the Boks’ top defender in the backs with nine tackles.
12 Damian de Allende – 7.5
Eleven strong carries to give South Africa go-forward all evening. The big centre cleaned up a lot of loose balls and defended well with Am, in what is a great partnership. Beat three defenders in his 80 minutes too.
Handre Pollard floated a fine chip over the top for wing Makazole Mapimpi, who finished well
11 Makazole Mapimpi – 7
Finished his try after half-time well, taking the cross-kick from Pollard. Gave away three penalties on his own in the first half though, but was good in the air and chased kicks well to pressurise the Lions back-three.
10 Handre Pollard – 8
Couple of dodgy kicks for goal, missing five points from the tee, but provided a world-class assist for Mapimpi’s try. Strong in defence and so solid under the high ball, many of which he launched from his massive boot.
9 Faf De Klerk – 8
Busy all game as ever, and was a nuisance, although may have been lucky when hitting Murray high in the second half. Super kick into the dead-ball area for Am’s try which sunk the Lions, pushing the Boks into a nine-point lead.
1 Steven Kitshoff – 8
Kept the scrum strong for the South Africans during his hour on the field as he won his 50th Springbok cap. Nyakane was incredible off the bench as his replacement, playing on the loose-head side when usually a tight-head.
Outside centre Lukhanyo Am then extended the lead with a controversial second try (pictured)
2 Bongi Mbonambi – 8
Itoje stole a couple of his lineouts in the first half, but he was perfect after that. The best scrummaging hooker the Boks have. His replacement Marx was part of the epic second half from the ‘bomb squad’.
3 Frans Malherbe – 7.5
The 20st tight-head was a rock in the set-piece to give South Africa a good platform to play off. When Koch came on for him the Lions scrum dismantled with Sutherland in it.
4 Eben Etzebeth – 8.5
An absolute beast who smashed the Lions in defence, making 12 massive tackles. He is the talisman for South Africa and enjoys his battles with Itoje so much. It will be another epic battle between them next week.
Pollard kicked three late penalties to rub salt in the Lions wounds as the match finished 27-9
5 Franco Mostert – 7
Great partner for Etzebeth, a physical presence both in defence and in attack, which is exactly what you’d expect from a South African lock. De Jager added even more off the bench as the Boks physically turned the screw.
6 Siya Kolisi – 8
Said he thought he was disrespected in the first Test and this week worked tirelessly all game with carries, breakdown contests and tackling everything he could.
Top Bok tackler with 14 hits, including an unbelievable try-saver on Henshaw, and made 22 metres.
7 Pieter-Steph Du Toit – 5
Unfortunately injured by van der Merwe and went off early having hurt his shoulder which could rule him out of next week. If he is out of the final Test it could be a huge loss for South Africa, who will hope Duane Vermuelen can come back.
8 Jasper Wiese – 6
A few errors, like dropped catches, but carried and tackled hard – the joint most hits with Kolisi on 14. In the back-field he improved in the second-half catching a lot of Murray’s box-kicks.
South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth (centre) was colossal and an absolute beast on the pitch