A Springbok-laden South Africa A team produced a gutsy performance to claim a 17-13 victory in a brutally physical match over the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Gameflow: The game certainly lived up to its billing as the ‘unofficial fourth Test match’ as both teams wasted no time in getting stuck into each other in the tackles, breakdowns and set pieces.
South Africa A were quickest out of the blocks, though, as the home side flew into a 17-3 lead thanks to tries from Sbu Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am.
The hosts noticeably had much the better of the game in the first half as they forced the Lions into errors and poor decisions, with some physical rush defence and put the tourists under immense pressure at the breakdown.
It was only towards the end of the first half that the Lions managed to get back into the game. To be exact, they spent the final six minutes on the South Africa A tryline, with the home side also losing Faf de Klerk and Marco van Staden to yellow cards. However, in similar fashion to the Springboks in the 2019 World Cup final, the home side held with with unrelenting defence and managed to go into the break with a 14-point lead.
The numerical advantage did eventually tell in the second stanza as, after the number of close calls, the Lions had a breakthrough when loosehead prop Wyn Jones forced his way over from close range, with Owen Farrell adding a penalty shortly after.
The rest of the match was a brutal back-and-forth, with both sides suffering injury concerns as a result. For South Africa A, Willie le Roux, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jasper Wiese were forced off, resulting in Jesse Kriel having to play loose forward. However, South Africa A managed to survive late scrum pressure in their own 22 to kick the ball into touch and secure the win.
Players who shone: Undoubtedly, among the best performers for South Africa A were Cheslin Kolbe and captain Lukhanyo Am. Both players combined effectively for the team’s second try, which proved to be the winner. Both Kolbe and Am were also incredible on defence.
Lock Franco Mostert showed incredible work rate, while Damian de Allende and Faf de Klerk also stood out.
Rassie Erasmus said that both teams got what they needed out of the match, in terms of game time and physicality.
South Africa A noticeably tired in the second half and were perhaps lucky to come away with the win, as the Lions had two tries chalked off by the TMO and were much the better side in the second half.
Perhaps the only department that South Africa A really struggled in was the scrums, with Trevor Nyakane in particular given a torrid time by Wyn Jones in the first half.
South Africa A – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Damian Willemse.
British & Irish Lions – 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray (c), 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Sam Simmonds, 22 Gareth Evans, 23 Elliot Daly.