By Paul Jones
Warren Gatland has told his British and Irish Lions to prepare for a “cup final” after their 27-9 defeat by South Africa in the second Test set up a series decider next Saturday.
The Lions entered half-time at Cape Town Stadium 9-6 ahead through three Dan Biggar penalties but the match then turned on its head, with the world champions taking control up-front and in the air.
Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am crossed in the third quarter while the boot of Handre Pollard did the rest, setting up a winner-takes-all scenario in the climax to the tour next week.
“The players are very disappointed but next Saturday is a cup final. That’s how we’ve got to look at it and prepare,” head coach Gatland said.
“There are a few things we’ve got to tidy up. It’s 1-1 and South Africa put a huge amount of emotion into that game. We’ve got that chance next week to hopefully take the series.
“We were happy at half-time and in the second half just didn’t get into it. We got no momentum, no real opportunity to play. Nothing at all from our kick returns and that was disappointing.
“They scrummaged well in the second half and got some reward from that. We felt going into half-time that we’d carried well, we had some forward momentum and we just didn’t achieve that at all in the second half.
“We will do a proper review and look at individuals and do we need to make some changes. We have got lots of options in terms of bringing some guys in to give us energy or momentum as well.
“The game was very slow and they did a good job of slowing it down – it was difficult to get that rhythm. The ref was talking about trying to speed it up and it is something we will look at raising.”
The build-up to the second Test saw South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus release online an hour-long video critiquing the performance of the officials at Cape Town Stadium a week earlier.
The Springboks then doubled down on their claim of being disrespected by the officials and accused Gatland of “destroying the dignity of the series” after the Lions made it known that they felt Marius Jonker – a South African – should not have been TMO.
“I thought it (Erasmus’ video) was pretty interesting. I won’t be going on social media this week,” Gatland said.
“I don’t really want to comment on that because I want other people to take care of it. The last thing we need is a war of words and being accused of doing certain things.
“It’s amazing to me how the narrative changed with regard to the TMO. I didn’t make one comment leading up to the game last weekend about the TMO yet I was accused of questioning his integrity.
“That was the message they were sending out. We’ll keep things to ourselves and keep to the proper channels.
“We’ve got systems and process in place. Hopefully, World Rugby looks at that to make sure everyone follows the protocols.
“We deal with the referees through World Rugby. That’s the process. I just hope it doesn’t get to the situation where we end up with things on Twitter and people airing their views in that way and not through the proper channels.
“I found it quite strange that that approach was taken. It’s definitely not something I’ll get involved with. It’s important that we keep up the integrity of the game as much as we can.”
Lions full-back Stuart Hogg has denied biting Willie Le Roux in Saturday’s defeat by South Africa.
Hogg’s head made contact with the left arm of Le Roux when tempers flared in the second half of a fractious second Test at Cape Town Stadium.
Footage and stills of the incident have been circulated on social media, but the Scotland captain rejects claims that he bit his opposite number.
“Following speculation that has surfaced online, I would like to categorically deny any foul play in last night’s game,” Hogg said in a statement released by the Lions.
Does Hogg have Willie in his mouth here? https://t.co/EBkSE7xw2M
— Dai Lama (@WelshDalaiLama) July 31, 2021
“I would never bite an opponent and I am annoyed and upset by this unsubstantiated accusation. I’ve always been proud of playing rugby in the spirit of the game.
“Respect to the Springboks for their deserved win yesterday. The squad is hurting after last night’s defeat, but it’s all to play for next week. It’s going to be a cup final and everyone’s going to be up for it.”
The citing window for disciplinary action to be brought has been extended to 24 hours, meaning the authorities have until later on Sunday to announce any charges.
South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe could also face action after escaping a red card for taking out Conor Murray in the air, as could Faf de Klerk after his no-arms high tackle on the Lions scrum-half.
The Springboks head coach, Jacques Nienaber, for his part, insisted that O’Keeffe and the South African TMO, Marius Jonker, made the right decision in showing Kolbe a yellow card only. “I thought it was the right call, a yellow card. They followed the process to a T,” he said.
“Our leadership group was fantastic. I should give them my win bonus. I felt more of a facilitator than a coach.”