Well played South Africa — a terrific win after an extremely fractious week. As Martin Johnson warned before the match, when the Boks are cornered they revert to Plan A! They simply execute it far better.
On Saturday night, we saw all their old forward power backed up by a much smarter kicking game and the Lions got sucked into playing how the Boks wanted.
It was really disappointing from the tourists who scarcely managed to fire a shot in anger. There will have to be a serious rethink ahead of next week’s decider.
South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus (right) is nominally a water boy but is far more
They caught the Boks cold last week but that won’t happen again. Now they must find a way of playing a wider game and bringing their attacking backs into it. First, however, they must fix the pack.
The Lions forwards came a distant second and some of the heroes of last week such as Courtney Lawes did not seem to feature. Even Maro Itoje was quiet by his standards and they gave away far too many penalties.
The Boks impressed in the end but in many ways the first period was a shocking half of rugby — at least for the sporting public. The committed Lions and Boks fans will have loved it, all gladiatorial stuff.
What stuck out a mile is that it is totally inappropriate and contrary to regulations for Rassie Erasmus to come onto the pitch in his yellow bib — with no water bottle — as he does time and time again when there is a break in play and a big decision pending.
Remember, he spent an hour via video on Thursday slagging off Nic Berry, one of the officials involved in the decision making process yesterday. He was hovering around when Ben O’Keefe was trying to decide whether Cheslin Kolbe should receive a red card for recklessly taking out Conor Murray in the air.
Erasmus – who criticised the referees after the first Test – was on the pitch in his supposed role as water boy
Wing Cheslin Kolbe (14) was lucky to escape a red for taking out Conor Murray (top) in the air
And he was on the pitch again during the halt in play when the possible Robbie Henshaw try was being considered and the Faf de Klerk challenge was being looked at — although we never did get the proper angles on that one. The Boks scrum half looked a little worried after he made contact.
I simply don’t see how this is permissible given the regulations covering additional personnel, which state that a member of coaching staff cannot come onto the field of play — except at half time if his side opts to stay on the pitch during the break.
If Erasmus is no more than a water boy, he can be on the pitch but can’t be part of coaching the team. But he is director of rugby and, by his own admission, the man who tried to contact the authorities in midweek with his concerns over officiating. Waterboys don’t get paid big bucks to do that.
You can’t have it both ways, Rassie! You are either a water boy or you are director of rugby and a member of the Boks coaching and backroom staff. You can’t ride both horses. World Rugby need to step in immediately and act on this. Rassie wants consistency and fairness, so why not set an example?
In his role as director of rugby, I don’t really object to him making his points about the officials in midweek. But he needs to decide what his job title is.
Faf de Klerk (front) then hit Murray (back) hard but officials did not spend long looking at it
As for the rugby — such as it was in the first half — part of me loved the arm wrestle but I also longed for one of the sides to break out and play some decisive passages.
After the week we experienced, we knew straight from the off that O’Keefe would come under huge pressure and so it proved. Duhan van der Merwe could have copped a yellow before his trip on opposite number Kolbe, who seemed just as out of control.
There was the ugly, headfirst challenge on Tom Curry and then Kolbe wiping out Murray in the air when he made no attempt whatsoever to get off the ground and make a legitimate challenge.
Many have been shown red for less since the tight clampdown over the last year or so. But, in terms of trying to create a spectacle, I was glad to see Kolbe stay on.
After the break, I immediately started to get worried for the Lions. Last week they came out of the tunnel roaring and immediately took the game by the scruff of the neck. This time they looked flat and the Boks were transformed.
But there is no disguising it – Lions were second best in every department and must improve
They started playing some rugby and looked dangerous throwing the gauntlet down to the Lions. I was disappointed at the lack of a response.
The tourists went very quiet and lost concentration in defence. They started conceding penalties, then came two tries.
The second was a very close call and the second angle we were shown on TV seemed to show no contact with the hand, but the TMO was telling the referee there was only one angle. All a bit odd.
Nothing could disguise the fact the Lions were coming off second best in every department. They were schooled and that will have hurt.
It hasn’t happened very often during Warren Gatland’s time. This week will now be very fractious — or nobody will say a word and both camps will go to ground!