Three Talking points from the Springboks series winner: The Bok bruisers brought home the bacon
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Given what was at stake plus the heavyweight verbal sparring between the camps throughout the series, the third Test decider between the Springboks and the Lions was always going to be jam-packed with drama. You could cut the tension with a knife as the match built to its climax and while it looked like it could end in a desperate draw with ten minutes to go, ultimately there would be the bitterly disappointed and the euphorically happy. Mike Greenaway looks at three talking points from the match.
Steyn’s date with destiny
Morne is indelibly Steyned into rugby folklore now that his boot of lightning has struck twice to sink the Lions in South Africa. But while it was the 37-year-old who physically had to kick the two penalties that secured the spoils, the fact that he was there in the first place is thanks to the imagination shown by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber. Firstly, it was a big call to recall the veteran and he played no part in the first two Tests. Then it was a bigger call to pick him for the third Test without him having played any rugby for some time. And finally, it was a massive call to actually put him on the pitch with 15 minutes to go as a substitute for golden boy Handre Pollard. This call by the Bok brains trust was visionary. They anticipated the situation of the Boks having to kick a pressure cooker penalty to win the game and who else would you want handling that pressure than the guy who had done it before? Pollard can be iffy with his goal-kicking and there was also a reasonable chance of him getting injured in the game. In that case, and I say this with respect, would erratic Elton Jantjies be the guy South Africa would want to take those penalties?
You can’t keep a good man down
When the Lions played South Africa A, Cheslin Kolbe confirmed his reputation as the best attacking player in the world with a blistering try. But that also meant he would be a marked man going into the Test series. Unfairly, there was commentary that Kolbe was “quiet by his standards” in the first two Tests but who wouldn’t be with a swarm of red jerseys smothering him every time he looked like getting the ball? But you can’t keep a Jack in its box forever and as the game wound up like a coiled spring, Kolbe shook off the suffocation to score a match-changing try that was beautifully reminiscent of his World Cup-final-clincher against England. Taking a neat pass from Willie le Roux, Kolbe left fullback Liam Williams for dead and then contemptuously handed off Luke Cowan-Dickie to scamper home. That try could only have been topped if it had been Owen Farrell that Kolbe skinned instead of Williams.
The Bok bruisers brought home the bacon
There will never be another Bakkies Botha, but neither will there be a carbon copy of Eben Etzebeth. In 2009, Bakkies put a Lion in hospital with a perfectly legal clean-out but the sheer physicality frightened the officials into banning him for the third Test. Etzebeth enforces the law of the jungle with similar authority. In perpetually bordering on assault with his deadly weapons (Dwayne Johnson-like biceps) he is the pillar of the pack. The other seven forwards take their cue from Etzebeth and together they do not have a reverse gear. Interestingly, the fate of this match was ultimately decided in the set scrums and the contribution of Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane and Frans Malherbe was incalculable. I thought Malherbe in particular scrummed magnificently. When he was picked, many were outraged at his rotund appearance. He indeed looks like he spent lockdown eating pies, but after that performance, let’s buy him a bakery!