British & Irish Lions

Springboks show world champion pedigree to bury British Lions and level series

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Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones (Gallo)
Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones (Gallo)

At Cape Town Stadium

It wasn't always pretty, but a pair of stunning second half tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am saw the Springboks emerge 27-9 victors in the second Test against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. 

The Test match was brutal - there were brawls, seemingly endless TMO referrals and yellow cards - but in the end, all that will matter to the Boks is that they have leveled this series at 1-1. 

By the final whistle, the world champions were in full flight, superb throughout the second half having given a timely reminder of their pedigree.

Next Saturday's series decider, also to be played at Cape Town Stadium, is poised to be a blockbuster.  

A fixture that was laced with tension before a ball was even kicked, thanks largely to Rassie Erasmus' explosive rant at the quality of refereeing in the first Test commanding headlines, was a battle of two sides not willing to give an inch on the day.  

Referee Ben O'Keeffe and TMO Marius Jonker, again, had their hands full. 

If the stakes weren't so high, the stop-start nature of this contest would have been excruciatingly frustrating, and the first half took a total of 63 minutes to complete.  

The conditions were perfect for running rugby, but much like a World Cup final, the result was all that mattered here. 

There were numerous brawls, Duhan van der Merwe was yellow carded for a filthy trip on Cheslin Kolbe, while Kolbe was lucky to avoid a red card for a hit on an airborne Conor Murray. 

The Lions then had a Robbie Henshaw try chalked off after he went over and knocked the ball in goal. 

That was all in a first half where the Boks, who were probably second best in most key areas during that period, hung on for dear life. 

The South African national anthem was sung with even more passion and appetite than usual, and the Springbok start reflected just how desperate they were to level the series. 

Eben Etzebeth was colossal, taking charge of some massive crash balls, and the Boks spent the first five minutes camped in the Lions 22m area.  

After tempers boiled over and O'Keeffe had to separate the first brawl, the Boks were eventually rewarded with a penalty that Handre Pollard knocked over to give the hosts a 3-0 lead. 

When the Lions did get hold of the ball, though, they showed how dangerous they could be and even from 25m out, Biggar launched a bomb that Willie le Roux could not control. 

The tourists were awarded a penalty of their own that Biggar slotted to level matters at 3-3, and he kicked another not long after when Cheslin Kolbe was pinged for a high hit on Tom Curry.

It didn't help that the Springboks lost one of their major weapons, Pieter-Steph du Toit, to injury on 21 minutes. He could not recover from an early hit from Van der Merwe that was also controversial in its execution. 

Pollard missed a routine penalty to level the game, before Van der Merwe tripped Kolbe to be shown a yellow card. 

Kolbe, chasing a high ball, then clattered into Murray who fell nastily. Initial fears were that Kolbe would see a red card, but the suggestion from Jonker from the TMO box was yellow. 

By the end of the first period, the Boks were struggling. They were losing their own lineouts and relying on some desperate and not always legal defence to keep out the Lions attack. 

When Biggar kicked his third penalty of the half to make it 9-6, the Boks would have been quietly pleased that they had limited the damage. 

The game, and the Springboks, needed a spark from somewhere and it came shortly after the restart. 

South Africa had found some momentum from a rolling maul and a few phases later, having sucked in a number of Lions defenders, space had opened up for them out left. 

The ball went to Pollard who shaped to pass as the Lions defence rushed up. Instead, the Bok playmaker delivered a pin-point cross-kick that found a racing Mapimpi. The Bok wing gathered, cut inside and finished off a stunning try that was easily the highlight of the Test up until then. 

Pollard missed the extra from out left, but the Boks had an 11-9 lead.

The Lions then reverted back to their kicking game, even when inside Bok territory, as the South Africans scrapped and cleared their lines undamaged each time. 

The Boks and Pollard, too, then started favouring a kick-heavy approach. 

The strike the South Africans needed, though, came on the hour mark after a devastating rolling maul went forward about 20 metres before O'Keeffe awarded the penalty advantage. 

Faf de Klerk took what looked an opportunistic option, stabbing a kick ahead into the Lions' in-goal area. 

Am won the race as the ball held up perfectly before the dead ball line, and TMO Jonker was again called on to decide that the Bok No 13 had got enough of a hand on his dot-down and the try was awarded. 

Pollard converted, the Boks had an 18-9 lead and with scoring opportunities so minimal up until that point, there was the feeling that they had enough. 

When Pollard kicked another penalty, taking it out to 21-9, they were home. And when the replacement Boks pack destroyed the Lions to set up yet another kick at goal for Pollard, which he slotted, the Lions were buried. 

The Lions finished the second half scoreless, as Pollard added his fifth penalty of the night on the hooter to see the Boks score 21 unanswered points in the last 40 minutes. 

Scorers:

South Africa 27 (6)

Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am

Conversion: Handre Pollard

Penalties: Pollard (5)

British & Irish Lions 9 (9)

Penalties: Dan Biggar (3)

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Chris Harris (Scotland), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland) 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Mako Vunipola (England)

Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland) 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Taulupe Faletau (Wales), 21 Ali Price (Scotland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Elliot Daly (England)

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