With sport being affected so much by the current pandemic, especially in our country, people were so looking forward to the tussle between the British & Irish Lions and the current world champions, Springboks.
The Northern hemisphere teams had completed their Six Nations tournament while the Boks had not played an international match since their triumph in Japan in the World Cup final back in 2019.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber fielded an almost full strength Bok side in the South Africa A match against the tourists to try and give some valuable Bok game-time ahead of the three-match Test series – and it proved valuable as SA “A” came out 17-13 winners. (See highlights below)
A lot was said after the first test, which the Lions won 22-17, that even Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, took to social media to point out discrepancies with Ben O’Keeffe’s officiating.
There were many instances during the first test that O’Keeffe and his counterparts, including South African TMO Marius Jonker, failed to act upon or even acknowledge.
These included the tip-tackle on Willie le Roux by Hamish Watson (penalty only and no card), the shoulder charge by Tom Currie on Faf de Klerk (not even penalised), and then Currie diving into a ruck from the side, followed by scrumming in on Ox Nche, lifting the prop and twisting his neck (neither were penalised).
Duhan Van der Merwe was also guilty of coming into a ruck from the wrong side and then tipping Makazole Mapimpi over onto his head.
Watch the highlights of the 1st Test:
This resulted in the second test at the same venue seven days later being closely scrutinized. New Zealander O’Keeffe and the rest of the officials must have felt the pressure from public opinion.
Despite the officials having a far better game in trying to manage the tensions and calling the game more fairly, one would say, the Lions certainly had it in them to play more football tactics than rugby.
Flyhalf Dan Biggar ran backwards into his own player and dropped to the turf like he had been flattened by Eben Etsebeth. Maro Itoje complained like a spoilt brat while captain Alun Wyn Jones was no better – but we’ll give him a break since he was wearing the armband – sorry for using the football reference.
The Lions took their niggling up to a new level during the second test, which the Springboks duly won 27-9, with Van der Merwe again the protagonist.
Watch the highlights of the 2nd Test:
The winger lifted Pieter-Steph du Toit and dumped him on the ground with South Africa already having a penalty advantage in the 4th minute. Van der Merwe was not sanctioned – just like Watson in the first test and Du Toit suffered an injury which forced the flanker from the field.
Van der Merwe was then pinged for kicking out at Cheslin Kolbe and duly received a yellow card for the foul play. But Kolbe was then binned two minutes later for taking out scrumhalf Conor Murray in the air.
There were claims for a red card but replays showed that Kolbe never took his eyes off the ball at any stage and a yellow was a fair call.
Itoje and Currie then proceeded to push and shove Kolbe which sparked a scuffle. During the scuffle, fullback Stuart Hogg then took a liking to his opposite number, Le Roux and sunk his teeth into his arm – not punished!
That act in itself was a red card offence!
Itoje was then back at his best, “taking the knee” to a whole new level when he pinned centre Damien de Allende on the ground with his knee. With De Allende tried to free himself, Itoje fell to the ground with arms flaying and acting like Renaldo going down after being hit by a slight breeze.
The third test is going to be very interesting. Let’s hope that we actually get a good, clean game of RUGBY and not the spectacle of THUGBY that we saw in the first two tests.
Perhaps the Lions, dominated by an English side that still has sour grapes of losing two World Cup titles to the Springboks, can only play Thugby against the Boks?