Did South Africa lose despite playing better?

If South Africa can’t improve under the Lions’ air strike, they may feel they are better than their opponents in more areas of the game, but still have lost the series.

There is a similar mindset about the Germans in World War I.

This was a close game and South Africa might feel good about them being the worst of received some important calls from the umpires. Had any of the tight calls ended, they would likely have either drawn or won the game.

I thought Maro Itoje, who had a very impactful game (as opposed to his calm one in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final), was given a dubious penalty in the first half when South Africa pressed on pressed line.

There was clearly a jolt before he grabbed the ball and grabbed it. I can’t see how the ball could have been out of the rucksack and it supported its weight by kneeling on a South Africa player – that would usually have been a penalty and, given the game situation, would have resulted in a warning or even one Yellow card led.

I also thought that the “No Try” call in the second half was problematic for South Africa, where both pass and offside chasers were marginal, as the decision was on the “try” field which meant that both had to be ‘clear and obvious’.

Every possible reason for not being awarded was questionable, but that is not clear and obvious. I suspect South Africa was also unhappy with the referee of the scrum and it appears that releasing the tackler is now optional.

Aside from tight calls against you and interpretation being problematic in the scrum and jerk, it’s really a part of the game and I like the attitude that New Zealand rugby folks have about when you’re not good enough remove the referee as influence, then you weren’t good enough.

I will also find that it is easy to complain about refereeing and criticize decisions, but if you ever try to direct a game you will appreciate what a dynamic one and difficult rugby to judge.

The point here is less that South Africa ‘robbed woz’, but more that they are not far from winning and maybe that they failed to get used to refereeing, and that, my friends, is a pretty important part of rugby victory.

As in the game against South Africa ‘A’, the Lions were shadowed in the collisions in the first half and the goalscoring line at half time reflected the general dominance of the Boks in set pieces and on offense pretty closely. As in the A game, the Lions worked their way into the game and shaded the collisions during the second half.

As with the ‘A’ game, the Lions ‘set pieces improved as the game progressed and the boks’ scrum struggled as the new front row kicked in as 2019 saw an upward notch. Prior to the Test, some South African Casandras had worried that the scrum would hold their power as the game progressed and they turned out to be right.


The collisions and the standard situation meant that the pressure on the Boks increased by a few levels due to the air attack by the Lions. In the A game, 1 felt the Lions weren’t taking many contestable kicks, which was in contrast to the Warren Gatland-led teams.

I wasn’t sure if this was intended or not. The back three Gatland picked for testing seemed like a running combo, more than a threat in the air, but the selection of Dan Biggar and the new Scrumhalf indicated that many high kicks were coming.

I was confused, but in the end the Lions pulled up almost from the start and South Africa struggled to consistently defuse the bombs. This is a long-standing problem that has been noticed by better judges than me, and if the Boks couldn’t handle it in 2019, they could struggle to come up with the answer for the next week.

I would take a close look at my full-backs and the uncomfortable prospect of dropping one of my wingers. I think dwarf Cheslin Kolbe isn’t the winger I’d lose – despite his vertical imbalance, he’s not that bad under the bomb and his attack threat means I could check out the other wing position.

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