Warren Gatland says the British and Irish Lions gave it everything but came up just short in their agonising Test series defeat to South Africa.

The Lions suffered last-minute heartbreak in Cape Town as Morne Steyn's penalty secured a 19-16 win for the Springboks, who take the series by a 2-1 scoreline having lost the opening match.

Gatland's side had taken early control of the decider, Ken Owens' try helping them claim a 10-3 lead before half-time.

However, the Lions were made to rue missed opportunities as the reigning world champions fought back, with veteran fly-half Steyn coming off the bench to land the knockout blow – just as he had done in the 2009 series between the same teams.

Nevertheless, Gatland was unable to fault the efforts of his players.

"I'm disappointed, but really proud of the guys," Gatland told Sky Sports. "We spoke beforehand about winning these Test matches being about big moments.

"We had a two-on-one when maybe Josh Adams should have scored and a couple of times we were held up across the line. 

"I thought we were bold in terms of the tactics and what we wanted to do and tried to play rugby.

"We had a couple of calls which didn't go our way and bounces of the ball, particularly the try they scored, but I'm really proud of the effort. 

"I can't ask the guys more than the guys giving 100 per cent and they definitely did that."

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi hailed team-mate Morne Steyn after his late penalty sealed a series victory for the Springboks over the British and Irish Lions.

Steyn came off the bench and proved the difference in Cape Town – his last-gasp kick securing a 19-16 win.

It was a first Test appearance in five years for the 37-year-old fly-half, who also landed the crucial blow in the 2009 series against the Lions.

The Lions were unbeaten in the final Test in each of their last three tours, but in a tightly contested tussle the Springboks produced a turnaround from 10-3 down to snatch a dramatic victory.

"As soon as he went for the kick, I thought 'no way!' It was beautiful to see him stay strong," Kolisi told Sky Sports.

"We didn't think he would come back and play. In his wildest dreams, he didn't think he'd get this opportunity again, so I'm very happy for him and the team.

"It was really challenging for both teams because there was a lot happening. But we focused as much as we could on what we had to do on the field, and that was most important.

"This is huge, 12 years – I will never get this opportunity again. I'm really honoured and proud of the team that we were able to achieve this. We can't compare it to anything else."

It was a heart-breaking end for the Lions and Alun Wyn Jones, who joined Mike Gibson and Graham Price as the fourth most-capped player in their history with 12.

Nevertheless, the skipper – who initially seemed set to miss the tour due to injury – revealed his sense of pride in the efforts of Warren Gatland's side.

"We are hugely disappointed – we were in it until the death. We had an opportunity at the end," he said.

"I am very proud of the boys and very conscious of who we represent but as I said, hugely disappointed at the same time.

"We wanted to come out for the second half with more of the same, we did that probably after the early exchanges, then the to-ing and fro-ing with the penalties broke up the game.

"It was probably similar to what we have seen in patches in previous games, we wanted to kick on but we could not do that."

The British and Irish Lions lock horns with South Africa once more in Saturday's decider, with the Test series on the line at 1-1 as it boils down to the final game.

The Lions battled to a 22-17 opening victory but will now have to lick their wounds and respond to the heavy 27-9 defeat that the Springboks inflicted in Cape Town last Saturday.

While Warren Gatland's men eye a first series win on South African soil since 1997 in the winner-takes-all showdown, the Boks are also aiming to piece together consecutive series successes over the tourists for the first time since 1962-1968.

Each of Gatland's three Lions series have gone to the wire, though it will be a tough task to bounce back from South Africa's comeback victory last time out.

Having suffered an 18-point loss, the Lions head coach has made a host of changes, bringing in front-row forwards Ken Owens and Wyn Jones alongside scrum-half Ali Price, full-back Liam Williams, wing Josh Adams and centre Bundee Aki.

Despite Gatland's changes tailoring to the pre-existing strategy of matching their opponents physically, attack coach Gregor Townsend insisted creativity would be the key to overcoming Siya Kolisi's reigning world champions.

"If you create opportunities, you have more chance of winning the game," Townsend said. "You may create more through pressure. We know we have to control the game more by moving South Africa around, draining them of energy whenever we can."

The introduction of Finn Russell, who Townsend explained "can ask different questions than any fly-half in the world," on the bench for Owen Farrell may offer the tourists that.

The Boks, in contrast, make just the two enforced changes. Pieter-Steph du Toit and Faf de Klerk miss out through injury, opening up room for Lood de Jager and Cobus Reinach to start.

De Jager's arrival will force Franco Mostert into the back row role he filled after 55 minutes last time out. Indeed, Mostert's shift gained control of the lineout, ensuring the hosts won the remainder of the game 16-0.

 

Discipline key

The war of words between both camps, following Rassie Erasmus' remarkable campaign against the match officials, carried over onto the pitch in the second Test, yet Kyle Sinckler was the only player cited amid a hostile showing from both teams.

However, if the Lions are to succeed in the decider, they must remain composed in response to the Boks' contentious style of game management.

Gatland commented on the "stop-start" nature of the first two Tests but Courtney Lawes maintained his team "can't get too caught up in the niggle of stuff, scrapping."

"They can throw their handbags around, as long as we can get the ball out and play some rugby," the 32-year-old added.

Kolisi jumped to the defence of his side, who have been accused of time-wasting and suffocating games to their benefit, declaring: "If there are niggles we can't leave a man behind. That's our system and what we believe in."

 

Aerial bombardment

The Lions struggled under the high ball in the second Test and any chance of success for Gatland's men largely hangs on the aerial performances of their back three.

Duhan van der Merwe has endured a mixed tour so far, with a positive first outing and a fairly poor second showing. He is joined by Williams and Adams who will go head-to-head with key Springboks Willie le Roux and Makazole Mapimpi.

The latter battle between two try machines promises to be a thriller. Adams leads the Lions' scoring charts with eight tries in four appearances, though Mapimpi also boasts an impressive 15 in 16 internationals.

In response to the tourists' heaviest defeat since 2005, Gatland has rolled the dice in his selections and, if the Lions can get the ball in hand and play as opposed to battling themselves into the ground, they have a chance of legacy-making glory.

 

TEAMS

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach; Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Morne Steyn, Damian Willemse.

British and Irish Lions: Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Adam Beard, Sam Simmonds, Conor Murray, Finn Russell, Elliot Daly.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Since 1962-1968, the past five series between the Lions and the Springboks have seen the winner alternate, with the hosts winning the most recent series in 2009.

- The Lions gained just 105 metres from 85 carries against South Africa in the second Test, their average gain of 1.24 metres per carry the lowest by a tier-one side in a Test match since Opta began recording such data in 2010.

- Both matches in this series have been won by the side trailing at the break; the Lions defeated the Springboks in the opener after outscoring them 19-5 in the second half, while in the second Test South Africa scored 21 unanswered points in the second 40 minutes.

- The Lions have lost just two series after winning the first Test (W10, D1) – against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001 – with the tourists winning four and drawing one of their five such series against South Africa. 

- Alun Wyn Jones is set to win his 12th Lions Test cap, joining Mike Gibson and Graham Price as the joint-fourth most capped player in Lions history, behind only Willie John McBride (17) and Dickie Jeeps (13).

- Damian de Allende has made 25 carries during the series, six more than any other player, gaining the most metres (76), as well as the most post-contact metres (67).

South Africa's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is to face a misconduct hearing after publicly criticising the match officials following their first Test defeat to the British and Irish Lions.

Erasmus accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play in their 22-17 win last month and hit out at the standard of refereeing from Nic Berry.

The 48-year-old made the claims in a 62-minute clip posted on social media as he highlighted what he felt were a number of calls that went against South Africa.

He also retweeted clips from an anonymous Twitter user, alleged to be one of his own accounts, highlighting "questionable calls" made by the tourists.

World Rugby has now cited Erasmus for his comments and he, along with South African Rugby, will face a judicial hearing.

"Match officials are the backbone of the sport, and without them there is no game," a statement from the rugby governing body read on Monday.

"World Rugby condemns any public criticism of their selection, performance or integrity which undermines their role, the well established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process, and more importantly, the values that are at the heart of the sport.

"Having conducted a full review of all the available information, World Rugby is concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials.

"However, the extensive and direct nature of the comments made by Rassie Erasmus within a video address, in particular, meets the threshold to be considered a breach of World Rugby regulation 18 (misconduct and code of conduct) and will now be considered by an independent disciplinary panel.

"World Rugby has reminded the management of both teams of the importance of this area and their obligations regarding the values of the sport."

In response, SA Rugby posted a brief statement on Twitter, which read: "SA Rugby has noted the charges brought by World Rugby and will respond through the designated channels. There will be no further comment from SA Rugby until the process is complete."

South Africa defeated the Lions 27-9 in a fiery encounter at the weekend to level the three-match series at 1-1 and set up a decider in Cape Town on Saturday.

Erasmus, who has doubled up as a water carrier, may still be present for that showdown as a hearing date has not yet been set by World Rugby.

South Africa must take their frustration over officiating out on the British and Irish Lions when then they attempt to keep the series alive on Saturday.

The Lions roared back in the second half of an attritional first Test at Cape Town Stadium last weekend to take a 1-0 lead with a 22-17 victory.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has had a busy week since the world champions' seven-match winning run came to an end.

Erasmus accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play and used social media to highlight "questionable calls" from the officials during an absorbing contest.

The 48-year-old fanned the flames further on Thursday, offering to "step away" in an hour-long video in which he stated the Springboks should be given an "equal chance" by officials in the remainder of series.

It was the turn of assistant coach Mzwandile Stick to have his say on Friday, accusing the Lions of “destroying the dignity of the series" by starting the war of words prior to the first Test.

Siya Kolisi then backed up Erasmus' claim that the Springboks captain felt disrespected by referee Nic Berry, who might be glad it will be New Zealander Ben O'Keeffe on duty this weekend.

The Lions have taken a different approach as they look to stretch their run of series without defeat to three for the first time since 1959, giving their backing to O'Keeffe.

Full-back Stuart Hogg said: "In the short time I've been Scotland captain Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees I've had to deal with.

"He almost coaches you round the field at the same time. When we ask questions he's very calm in his answers and is good at communicating.

"That's a reason why a large majority of his games when he's involved are allowed to flow, you're allowed to get on with it, and he helped me massively in the couple of games we've had him when I've been leading the side.

"Everyone is entitled to the opinion of referees, but they have a huge amount of respect from us as players. I'd hate to do the job if I'm honest!

"But Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees I've had the opportunity to deal with as captain."

South Africa have handed number eight Jasper Wiese his first Test start as one of three changes, with prop Steven Kitshoff steps in to win his 50th cap alongside the returning Frans Malherbe.

Prop Mako Vunipola, scrum-half Conor Murray and centre Chris Harris come into the Lions team.

 

 

KOLISI: TIME TO STAND UP

While the hurting Springboks were quick to point the finger at the officials, skipper Kolisi knows they must improve after squandering a lead in the first Test.

"Of course, we feel a lot of pressure, but we must focus on what we can control and fix the mistakes we made," said Kolisi.

"We responded well this week and trained well, and we are looking forward to the match. We know we have to stand up in times like these."

He added: "There are some similarities to losing against New Zealand in our opening game in the World Cup, but this is different because this tournament is only played every 12 years, while the World Cup is played every four years, so we may not have another opportunity.

"We have to turn it up and we are looking forward to the match."

 

LIONS PREPARED FOR BOKS BACKLASH

Robin McBryde has been looking back as well as forward as the Lions prepare for another almighty battle, reading up on the 1974 tour of South Africa.

The Lions secured a 3-0 whitewash 47 years ago, but they did not go down without a huge fight and forwards coach McBryde knows it will be no different this time around. 

"They will go back to their physical nature. It’s what they did in 1974 after losing that first Test," he said.

"There's a term they have which means climbing in, to get stuck in. I'm sure that’s what they'll be looking to do on Saturday – to get stuck into us.

"They're a very proud nation who will be looking to come out with all guns blazing."

 

South Africa : Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements : Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

British and Irish Lions : Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Chris Harris, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.

Replacements : Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The Lions have lost just two of their previous 13 games in Cape Town (W10, D1), a run that stretches back to the beginning of the 1974 tour.
- South Africa conceded 14 penalties against the Lions in the first Test, including nine inside their own half of the pitch; both tallies were their most in a Test since June 2018 against England.
- The Lions are unbeaten in their three Tests (W2, D1), their best run since a six game spell spanning the 1971 and 1974 tours (W4, D2).
- The tourists have lost just two series after winning the first Test (W10, D1) – against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001. They won four and drew one of their five such series against South Africa.

South Africa assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has accused the British and Irish Lions of "destroying the dignity of the series" ahead of the second Test on Saturday.

The Springboks are aiming to bounce back in Cape Town following last weekend's controversial 22-17 defeat in the series opener.

The performance of referee Nic Berry came under scrutiny from the hosts, with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus embarking on a lengthy rant on social media criticising the official.

Backing Erasmus, Stick has intensified the pressure ahead of the second Test.

The assistant coach has suggested Warren Gatland's Lions challenged the integrity of the governing body in the lead-up to the opening Test by questioning the appointment of South African Marius Jonker as TMO.

"Let's go on the build-up where firstly, the integrity of World Rugby was challenged by another human being when Marius was appointed TMO," Stick said.

"And then Gatland on the other side went crazy, and was asking World Rugby and challenging them about the decision they had made.

"We're not asking for any favours, we just want equal grounds.

"I wouldn't like the whole series to be about decisions taken by the officials, or about the coaches off the field.

"Even if things are being said in social media or a traditional media conference, it's still the media. All coaches want to get their messages across.

"He (Erasmus) wanted to state his as his own personal view; it had nothing to do with us as a team.

"So if Rassie got into trouble because of what he said on social media, I think the gentleman that challenged the integrity of the game when the TMO was challenged, I think that is something that really destroyed the dignity of the series and also challenges the integrity of World Rugby."

Rassie Erasmus has offered to "step away" from his role with South Africa for the remainder of the series against the British and Irish Lions in an extraordinary hour-long video.

Erasmus had accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play via social media earlier this week following the 22-17 victory for Warren Gatland's side in the first Test at Cape Town Stadium.

He had also been active on social media 24 hours after Saturday's game, retweeting clips from a user highlighting "questionable calls" made during proceedings.

South Africa's director of rugby has now taken aim again at the officials ahead of the second Test, stating that the Springboks should have an "equal chance" in the remainder of the series as he revealed his readiness to move aside.

Erasmus said: "I have previous encounters where I've made mistakes, saying things in public about referees and that normally comes back to bite you.

"But in this instance, the Lions only comes around every 12 years. I think it should be fair that I'll step away from these last two Test matches, but let the Springboks and the Lions have an equal chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect and the way that players get treated."

He added: "If you think this is going over the top and it shouldn't go out to the media, then I did this in my personal capacity, not as part of the Springboks and I'll withdraw myself from the Springbok management team."

Erasmus felt that South Africa captain Siya Kolisi was not treated with the same level of respect as Lions counterpart Alun Wyn Jones in the opening Test.

He said: "When Siya spoke to the referee and when Alun Wyn spoke to the referee, I felt the reactions on how they treated both those players… there was a vast difference between who was taken seriously and who wasn't.

"It's comical, the way the respect the assistant referees and the refs is different between the Lions and South Africa. There was a vast difference between who he was taking serious and who he wasn't taking serious."

Erasmus acted as water carrier in the first Test but reiterated he is prepared to move out of the limelight.

"If this causes that I'm not allowed to be water carrier that's fine, I'll step away," he said. "If we're going to get a fine, I'll step away from the management team.

"If this means the Springboks will get in trouble, I'll say I did this personally, because I believe in fairness, the system and two teams having an equal chance of competing in a match.

"I'm not saying the referee was a cheat at all, saying we just wanted clarity on a Sunday night, which we now have on a Tuesday, which I personally am not very convinced with the clarity we had from (referee) Nic Berry."

Erasmus was also eager to point out that Gatland had questioned why Faf de Klerk had not been sent off in the Lions' defeat to South Africa A earlier in the tour, while he also took issue at the decision to appoint Marius Jonker as TMO in the first Test, a move made after original selection Brendon Pickerill was ruled out due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think where things for us got cluttered and frustrating was when the Lions started moaning about officiating on the field, where for example Faf got a yellow card in the South Africa A game," Erasmus said.

"The Lions criticised that and said they wanted clarity from World Rugby where it should have been a red card and was it not direct head contact. We had in the same game lots of clips of the Lions making mistakes, just like us. Warren openly said it should have been a red card.

"Obviously then he talks to the media and according to me is that you don't talk to the media, you talk to World Rugby. Again, it is a bit of a grey area. If you wanted to go in such depth about Faf's.

"We just put two on social media. We saw it as banter. Before a big Test match, they put some pressure, we put some pressure on.

"Where we got a bit worried was this narrative that we are this dirty team and all the chat was that the South Africans want to play physical and that’s why they highlighted the Faf thing.

"When the TMO was drawn and Marius Jonker was appointed, the Lions made such a fuss of it. We don't want this negativity in South Africa."

Warren Gatland felt Maro Itoje’s outstanding display in the British and Irish Lions’ victory over South Africa last weekend was the best he has seen from the back-row.

Itoje was named man of the match after playing a huge part in the Lions overturning a half-time deficit to win the first Test at Cape Town Stadium 22-17.

The 26-year-old England lock was dominant at the breakdown against the world champions and came up with a game-high three turnovers.

"To me that’s probably the best game I’ve seen him play in any sort of jersey," said Gatland.

"He has been guilty in the past of giving away penalties and probably pushing the limits but I thought we saw an incredibly mature performance last weekend."

 

Gatland was impressed with Itoje's discipline in an attritional battle.

"I thought it was an excellent performance; I made a joke on Monday that it was the first time in about 360-odd games that Maro Itoje hadn't given away a penalty," Gatland added.

"I thought his decision making around the game in terms of when he went for things, when he decided to leave things alone, I kind of felt in the past he's chased lost causes and gone after things he didn't need to do and probably wasted a lot of energy.

"But I thought on Saturday his decision making about when to go after something, counter-ruck at the breakdown and the line-out stuff, was actually outstanding."

The Lions have made three changes for the second Test on Saturday, bringing in scrum-half Conor Murray, Mako Vunipola and debutant Chris Harris.

British and Irish Lions star Mako Vunipola and defence coach Steve Tandy have jumped to the tourists' defence after Rassie Erasmus took to social media to criticise their conduct in the first Test against South Africa on Saturday.

The Springboks' director of rugby posted and interacted with multiple posts on Twitter in the aftermath of the 22-17 defeat in Cape Town as he dissected what he thought to be a poor refereeing performance and an ill-disciplined outing from Warren Gatland's men.

The latest clip posted by Erasmus involved Ali Price's initial tackle on Cheslin Kolbe near the touchline before Vunipola lifts the South Africa winger off the turf – an act Erasmus cited as "reckless and dangerous".

The 2019 World Cup-winning coach added: "Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!! More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground."

Vunipola, in contrast, insisted he was trying to inject energy by regaining the ball as the Lions looked to get back into proceedings, while the prop also offered Kolbe his apologies should he be injured.

"I remember just trying to get the ball," the Lions forward said. "I saw he had gone down and it was done in the heat of the moment. He seemed alright. He played on for the rest of the match.

"I guess if he was really hurt, it was a bit reckless. But I felt the collision wasn't that bad. We were behind at the time and we wanted some tempo. If I did hurt him, I apologise."

This is not the first time that Erasmus' social media posts have caused both controversy and confusion.

A day prior to the Vunipola accusation, Erasmus retweeted a post from an anonymous user which branded some of the match officials' calls as "questionable" against the reigning world champions.

Erasmus added to the highlights package of the officials' apparent mistakes: "Thanks. This is rugby - sometimes calls go for you and other times they don't."

Lions defence coach Tandy, who admitted his lack of social media literacy, responded by offering the match officials praise and insisted the tourists would lodge any complaints through the relevant governing bodies.

"Being a bit of a dinosaur myself and not being on Twitter and things, I'm hearing lots of hearsay," Tandy commented. "We thought the officials did a really good job at the weekend and if there's anything we need to bring up we'll go through the appropriate channels.

"Every team can go through micro details and analyse it. We do it ourselves, but it is then going through the appropriate channels, raising the ones that are relevant and not making it about every small detail, just making sure every one of the major ones is correct.

"It’s a tough job and I know everyone moans around certain decisions. There’s always frustration, and we get it as coaches. But if you can keep that, because it is a tough job out there for the officials.

"If we can keep to the proper channels, I think that is probably the best way around that because it’s a tough job for the players, the coaches, and it’s definitely tough for the referees too."

The Lions, who have now won the opening Test in four of their last seven tours, return to action on Saturday as they look to secure an unassailable lead in the three-Test series.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.