Five things we learned from the Lions’ second-Test loss

Date published: August 1 2021 - David Skippers

The British and Irish Lions’ second-half capitulation against South Africa on Saturday has set up a tense decisive third Test next weekend.

Here, we examine the talking points from the Boks’ supreme 27-9 victory in Cape Town.

Rassie Erasmus’ social media rant worked wonders

Rugby director Erasmus might find himself in hot water with the sport’s governors, but South Africa will not care one jot after Saturday’s potent second-Test victory. The Boks boss’ 62-minute social media rant against the officiating from the Lions’ 22-17 first Test victory has, in hindsight, definitely turned the series in the hosts’ favour. So acutely aware of outside scrutiny were the officials for Saturday’s second Test that the first half lasted more than an hour. The stop-start nature of the opening period ensured the undercooked Springboks would not run out of steam again in the closing stages, as they had in the first Test. The marginal calls fell the Boks’ way as well, and the home side took full advantage, battering the Lions in a fully-deserved, commanding win.

A busy few days await the citing commissioners

All the off-field squabbling between the two camps was bound to boil over on Saturday, and so it proved. Cheslin Kolbe was lucky to avoid a red card for tackling Conor Murray in the air, while Faf de Klerk’s high shot on Murray was not even considered problematic. The Lions were no choirboys either however, with full-back Stuart Hogg forced to issue a statement strenuously denying allegations of biting. Maro Itoje was caught on camera holding his knee to the neck and chest area of a prone Damian De Allende to boot, as tensions continued to build in this engaging but niggly series.

Test rugby has a major entertainment problem

Rugby is desperate to grow the game globally, and sell the sport to new territories and groups of potential fans. But any newcomer tuning in to Saturday’s transmission would have been left underwhelmed by the turgidity of a dismal first-half.

When even die-hard aficionados are reaching for the off button, the spectacle has long evaporated. Referees and officials have an extremely testing job making the right calls when many of the rules remain open to interpretation, and the lawmakers would do well to remove much of that subjectivity for Test match rugby’s long-term good.

The Lions must regain composure to stand a chance of a series win

When Tom Curry squared up to Kolbe after the wing had tackled Murray in the air, the Lions lost a modicum of high ground. Rather than help the officials take a dim view of Kolbe’s dangerous tackle, that aggressive move will have only left the referee and his team looking unfavourably on the tourists. Even the sideshow scuffles went South Africa’s way on Saturday, and the Lions can ill afford any further rancour.

Celebrated selector Warren Gatland must pull another masterstroke

Lions boss Gatland has never shied away from a bold move when it comes to selection. And the former Wales coach will need the strength of his convictions all over again heading into a massive week. The Lions’ back-three failed to cope with the Boks’ aerial game, and new faces could be called for there. A tactical re-jig could be required as well, as the Lions failed to create anything of note in midfield and certainly need more guile and invention.