South Africa loose forward Warren Whiteley has said that the country should be applauding a Springbok revival not a Lions rescue.
This came after Whiteley and his Lions teammates, Ruan Combrinck and Franco Mostert, came off the bench and were the difference in the end.
Whiteley scored the first of four second half tries as the two-time world champions came back from trailing by 16 points in the second half to snatch a 32-26 victory setting up a deciding third Test in Port Elizabeth this coming Saturday.
“In no way is this a Lions team, this is a national side,” Whiteley told Sport24.
“And collectively we are working towards a game plan and a style of rugby. It isn’t going to happen in a week or two of training. It will take time and I believe the players have been working extremely hard.
“Even the week before when we lost, we put in so much and that was a tough week for us. That is why it was so disappointing for all of us, in the build-up, we trained extremely hard, put in a lot of effort and I’m extremely proud to see just slowly but surely guys getting into the rhythm and starting to learn each other.
“We’ve only been together for two or three weeks, so we’re slowly starting to feed off each other. This is only my fifth test, so learning to play with guys like Damian, scrumming behind Pieter-Steph. These are guys I haven’t played much rugby with and it is such a privilege to play with these guys. We’re slowly learning to play with them.”
Whiteley explained the difference between their first and second half performance and credited the shift in their mental capibility to pull it back in the second 40.
“We felt we gave ourselves a chance,” he said.
“We started getting quick ball and started getting over the advantage line and by doing that we could create space out wide. That is how we capitalised, we saw guys like Ruan Combrinck scoring our wide, getting some space there, Damian scoring through the middle.
“If we can keep that width, we can earn the right to go wide. Our timing was better in that second half, we earned our right and we managed to exploit those spaces and Ireland were just tactically better in that first half, they kicked smartly, tactically very well – contestable kicks and managed to get a lot of turnovers with those kicks.
“They kept us under pressure obviously with those three pointers and kept the scoreboard ticking 19-3. They also deserve a lot of credit, they did really well but we’re proud of the character and resilience of the group.