A bright and lively second-half display by the visiting British and Irish Lions saw them beat the Springboks 22-17 in the first test game played in Cape Town on Saturday evening. The Lions scored 19 points to the Springboks 5 in the second half to secure a come-from-behind victory against the world’s top-ranked side.
Springboks Jacques Nienaber opted for a more experienced side as he named 21 members of the World Cup-winning side including Captain Siya Kolisi. There was however concern over the squad training together and gelling as Kolisi, Ox Nche, and Makazole Mapimpi joined the rest of the squad in Cape Town on Monday from their self-isolation rooms.
Despite all the challenges, the hosts began the sharper of the two, fly half Handre Pollard slotting in two quick penalties in the first 17 minutes. The Lions would however not take this lying down and Dan Biggar, preferred in place of the more experienced Owen Farrell, sliced the posts with a penalty of his own in the 19th minute.
Pollard was making his 50th appearance in the Springboks jersey and he made that count from the boot as he slotted in two more penalties. Aided by two penalty goal misses by Biggar and Elliot Daly, the Springboks went in the breather leading 12-3.
In what would turn out to be a tale of two halves, the British and Irish Lions owned the second stanza, announcing their intents with an early try as Luke Cowan-Dickie went over from a powerful maul. Dan Biggar added the extras and the Springboks could only boast of a two-point lead.
That would not last for long as Faf de Klerk extended the Springboks lead with an unconverted try. Pollard would rue that missed conversion as Biggar added a penalty two minutes later, and another in the 55th minute. The penalties kept on coming for Biggar as the Springboks defense was struggling to keep up with the Lions’ up and unders.
The Springboks were not entirely hopeless as they sadly saw two tries by full-back Willie le Roux and inside the center, Damian De Allende chalked off by the Television Match Official (TMO) for infringements in the buildup. The Lions will also look back at the fact that they were able to keep Cheslin Kolbe, arguably the best player in the world at the moment, quiet the whole game with a wide grin.
Biggar would give the Lions the lead for the first time in the game as he slotted in another penalty in the 62nd minute. That would however be his last involvement in the game as he was substituted for Owen Farrell in the 66th minute.
A lot had been said about Owen Farrell’s ability to impact the game from the bench and he clearly did not let that get to him as he applied an ice-cold finish to the last penalty in the 78th minute. That would prove to be the last meaningful moment of the game as the British and Irish Lions took a 22-17 win and the lead in the three-test series.
After the game, the Springboks Captain Siya Kolisi admitted to being victims of their own undoing saying, “We were our own worst enemies; we could have done better as a team.”
The Springboks have a week to correct their mistakes as they will take on the British and Irish Lions in the second test next weekend still, in Cape Town.