A dream, 4380 days a.k.a 12 years in the making has been realised once again as the stupendous Springboks overcame a resilient Lions’ outfit 19-16 in the crucial third fixture of the Castle Lager Lions series at the Cape Town stadium last evening.
The contest stood at one apiece heading into the all-important decider.
This after the British & Irish Lions had beaten the Boks 22-17 in the first game amid controversy galore and the home team annihilated the tourists in the second fixture 27-9 in a game that had more ill-fated temper tussles than performance on the field.
The win was the second successive series hurrah for South Africa after they had downed the men from the British Isles in 2009 with a crucial Morne Steyn penalty conversion in the 79th minute of the final game at Pretoria as the series was tied 1-1 even on that occasion.
Ironically on this occasion also, it was the experience of the fly-half that came to the fore as Steyn converted a critical penalty in the dying moments of the contest. Again!
Perhaps the 37-year-old believes in bringing his best when his team is up against the Lions in every do or die situation.
The Men in Green and Gold reigned supreme by not only winning this series albeit also prevailing 2-1 on the three previous occasions that these two teams have locked horns since the onset of the professional era in rugby.
Make no mistake, any series win over a team comprising of possibly the best four rugby nations that make the cream of Europe in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland is as big as winning the Rugby World Cup.
Perhaps that’s the reason, South Africa have always battled the Lions following their performance extraordinaire to lift the show piece of World Rugby be it in 1997, 2009 and now in 2021.
Truth be told, the victory to tilt the series towards the southern coast of Africa was the much-needed ointment for a country still reeling from unrelenting covid pressures, massive unemployment and the recent looting and rioting debacle in the provinces of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng.
Afterall sport is the biggest unifier amid all uncertainties in life.
So, without further ado let’s throw some light on this fantastic showing by the Boks to truly justify their title of World Champions in the Mother City last evening:
The Lions show much metal in the first half
South Africa went into this crucial decider without the experienced duo of scrum-half Faf de Klerk and world player of the year in 2019, the lock, Pieter Steph du Toit who unfortunately suffered injuries in the second test.
The majestic fly-half and vice-captain of South Africa who won his 50th cap in the first test of this series, Handre Pollard put the Boks in front in the 12th minute through a penalty goal.
The Lions came back strong as they constantly built attacks in the Springbok half and as a result managed to get an equaliser through a Finn Russel penalty goal moments later.
Their approach to keep attacking the Boks paid further dividend as Welshman, Ken Owens did well to score a TRY in the 18th minute after barging over the line through a powerful driving maul.
The Scottish fly-half, Russel made no mistake in converting the resultant penalty as the Lions led the Boks 10-3 with 20 minutes to go before the end of the first half.
In the 34th minute a massive Bok scrum saw the Men in Green and Gold win another penalty as Pollard made no mistake slotting it home after missing his two previous kicks.
South Africa were lucky to get three points back as the half time score read South Africa 6 – 10 British & Irish Lions with 74 percent territory and 69 percent possession being in the visitors’ favour.
Cheslin Kolbe and Morne Steyn realise the dream
As the second half began, Siya Kolisi and his chargers knew the next 40 minutes were extremely crucial as the hope of a country hungry for inspiration much like in 2019 rested on the able shoulders of these 15 brave men.
And boy, they did not disappoint with Cheslin Kolbe scoring a crucial TRY in the 56th minute to edge the Boks ahead as Handre Pollard made no mistake in converting the resultant penalty.
The score was now South Africa 13-10 British & Irish Lions with a little more than 20 minutes to play.
The Lions again came back strong with a decisive penalty as the score moved to 13 apiece.
Morne Steyn had replaced Handre Pollard as the game was heading towards the finish line, certainly not to end in dull draw.
Three minutes left to the final 80 saw the Boks make inroads into the Lions territory looking for the all-important penalty as the referee blew his whistle much to the delight of the 15 men in Green and Gold on the field and 60 million watching from every possible nook and corner of the country. South Africa had their penalty!
The hopes of 60 million Bok supporters and millions more world-wide, me included rested on the kicking abilities of Morne Steyn.
He had done this 12 years back albeit the only question plaguing everyone’s mind was would the ability matched with the will still be there for this Bulls man?
Well, it certainly was as the experienced campaigner made no mistake slotting the ball between the two poles.
South Africa had edged in front as the referee called time on the full 80 with magical scenes of joyful tears engulfing everyone in attendance at the Cape Town stadium and millions watching on their TV sets.
The Springboks had done it, beaten the Lions after 12 years, courtesy the nerve and will of Morne Steyn. Again!
The Rugby Championship awaits the men in Green and Gold next
Confidence is a funny word, when one has it in loads, he is the king of the world and when faced with lack of it, even the roadside popper seems more than a king to him.
Thankfully, Springboks have the C word in abundance as things stand, being the reigning World Champions and the conquerors of the British & Irish Lions as they head into the most prestigious competition of rugby in the southern hemisphere pinning the might of the All Blacks, Wallabies and the Pumas.
South Africa will open their competition with two back to back games against Argentina at Port Elizabeth in the next two weeks before flying down under to lock horns with Australia and conclude the championship in the mother of all battles in rugby against New Zealand. The oldest rivalry in world rugby.
The Boks have won this championship in 2019 and I see no reason why they can’t accomplish the cherry this time under the able guidance of Coach, Jacques Neinaber and Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus.
Afterall they are playing their best rugby that one has seen in recent memory.
Hence for me, its only befitting to conclude this article with the three magical words that capture the sentiment of every Springbok supporter.
Go Bokke Go!