The Springboks sent out a clear signal why they are the best rugby team in the world with a 2-1 come from behind series win over the British & Irish Lions, a feat only a few countries have achieved. To further highlight the feat, South Africa have now done it back to back after winning the same series in 2009.
The British & Irish Lions tour South Africa every 12 years and this series can be regarded as the best in World Rugby behind the World Cup. New Zealand could only draw the series in 2017, with Australia losing it in 2013.
It is an enormous feat for the Springboks, considering they were inactive for almost two years after winning the World Cup in 2019. They only had one preparation match – against Georgia – whom they defeated 40-9. Covid-19 struck, with the second test against Georgia cancelled. It got worse when more than 22 positive Covid cases emerged while the Boks were in their bio-secure bubble, which left their preparations in tatters and question marks about whether to cancel the tour.
It was also an extraordinary Lions tour, with no spectators allowed at the stadiums. The tour, which was supposed to be played in Cape Town and Gauteng, was changed at the last minute and all the matches were scheduled for Cape Town Stadium.
The British & Irish Lions hit the first salvo, as they won the first Test 22-17. The Springboks regrouped and showed their mettle with a resounding 27-9 win in the second Test.
The series was nicely poised with the third test promising to be a humdinger. South Africa went into the test series without influential eighthman Duane Vermeulen and to make matters worse, key players Pieter-Steph du Toit and Faf de Klerk were ruled out of the third test due to injuries.
Once again it was left to Morné Steyn to inflict another 12 years of hurt on the British & Irish Lions. Once again, the 37-year-old had the coolest head on the pitch as he landed the decisive penalty with just two minutes remaining to break the Lions’ hearts, again.
The Bulls flyhalf had been a rookie when he landed his famous 53-metre penalty in the final minute at Loftus Versfeld to clinch the series 2-0 against Sir Ian McGeechan’s side in 2009, one of the most brutal test matches in the history of the game.
The kick at Cape Town Stadium was much more straightforward, but the impact was no less devastating for the tourists. The final score was 19-16 in a closely-contested match.
The Springboks are the current World Champions, ranked no 1 in the world, are defending Rugby Championship champions and now back-to-back British & Irish Lions series winners. This group of players, led by captain, Siya Kolisi, with the astute tactician and rugby mind in director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, and defence coach extraordinaire, Jacques Nienaber, will go down in history as one of the greatest Bok sides ever to have emerged.