Sky Sports pundits Maggie Alphonsi, Sam Warburton, Sir Ian McGeechan and Bryan Habana pick out the key points as South Africa won the series against the British and Irish Lions after winning a gripping third test 19-16 in Cape Town with a 79th-minute penalty by Morne Steyn.
The last series between the Lions and South Africa – in 2009 – was clinched by a Steyn penalty, and he remarkably did it in dramatic fashion again 12 years later.
Steyn hadn’t played a test since 2016 but was brought into the reserves for this series decider for his experience, temperament, and positive attitude.
He was sent on in the 65th minute for fly-half Handre Pollard, who had missed two consecutive penalties, and landed both of his chances, the first to regain the lead at 16-13, and the second to win the series.
The Lions produced their best rugby of the series in a first-half they lit up with off-loads, tempo, and ambition. However, their first-half dominance was not reflected on the scoreboard as they only went into the break 10-6 ahead.
They could not keep their momentum up though and South Africa came back and dominated a tense third quarter.
Sir Ian McGeechan on Lions missed chance
The Lions, heavily criticized after being thrashed in the second Test, tried a bolder approach in the decider: To play at pace and run the Boks ragged.
Liam Williams ignored an overlap that would have led to a certain score for Josh Adams, while they turned down several kickable penalties as well.
“It was a missed opportunity; I think the Lions were a much better side today,” said McGeechan.
“They missed their opportunities in the first half – if they had been clear 10-12 points ahead it may have been different. I would have liked to have seen them kick a couple more penalties.
“The quality of the rugby today was so different to what we have seen before and it created opportunities. It will not be an easy dressing room to walk into. It is a tough, tough place to be.”
O’Gara – credit to South Africa and Morne Steyn
Ronan O’Gara knows what the players will be feeling like having been in the side that lost to South Africa back in 2009. In fact, it was O’Gara who handed Morne Steyn the winning penalty after he chased his own up and under and took out Fourie du Preez in the air!
“I don’t think anyone had near the colossal mess up I had!” admitted O’Gara.
“From a team point of view, they will be very disappointed. Sport at this level is brutal and ruthless – the margins get smaller and smaller.
“The boys in red will have regrets but huge credit to South Africa; great teams find a way to win.
“It may not be pretty to some people but when their scrum was needed, when their maul was needed – and when you have a genius like Cheslin Kolbe, it matters!
“I moved to Paris in 2013 and I was leaving a cafe and I recognised a face – it was Morne Steyn and he came over and we had a chat.
“Over the years we became friendly with his family and it was just brilliant to chat to him about the 2009 tour and what it meant – he was third choice with Stade Francais 12 months ago but sport is so fascinating – when you are on your knees and you think you are never going to have a role again… and then you look at him now.
“His son is deadly with the boot already – he is around 10 years old, so in 12 years time, we could be watching out for another Steyn!”
Habana on Springbok win
Bryan Habana believes the grit shown by South Africa was incredible and winning the series will be some solace to a country reeling from Covid and civil unrest.
“The determination and resilience of the Boks – it was almost like one of those Rocky Balboa movies,” said Habana.
“Just to see everything they have had to overcome – all the civil unrest in SA, and to see how this band of brothers has come together has been very special. Hopefully, this will be something that will linger on – not only for tonight but for the next 12 years.
“What this team has done tonight just shows that if everyone works toward a certain direction and gives everything for the jersey then they do not take it as pressure – they take it as a privilege. Hopefully the players get to enjoy this and hopefully South Africans all over the world will know that the jersey worn tonight will go a long way in bringing this country together.
“Long may the impact that Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi are doing for this SA side continue – it is a joy to watch and they make me extremely proud to be South African.”
Maggie on Siya Kolisi
Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi produced another superb performance for South Africa and his manner on and off the field continues to have a massive impact.
“What a captain, what a leader,” Alphonsi said. “You cannot help not listening to him and be inspired – I am not South African but he makes me want to play for them!
“He is such an inspirational player and he is breaking barriers. I wish him all the best for what he can achieve in the future – he has done a lot for the teams.”
Warburton puts the game in perspective
Sam Warburton said: “It is gutting now, but in the grand scheme of things, the players will still be proud of themselves. As gutting as it is, it is sport – look at what someone like Doddie Weir is going through. Look at the fight he has got and think of the situation him and his family are in and how brave he has been. We are still privileged to be in the position we are in and play for the Lions and you have your health and your family.
“You have to think what SA have been though – before the tour I thought the Lions would win as SA had not played for 20 months and not having that level of Test match exposure would hurt them.
“It was so tight between the two teams but when you take into consideration the second test, then maybe SA did deserve to win the series.”