Highly respected coach Brendan Venter believes the British & Irish Lions lacked some intensity in their tour opener and that the pendulum may have swung back in favour of the Boks ahead of the Test series.
In a column for Sport24, Venter argues that despite the comfortable scoreline, the Lions did not boss the contest against their Johannesburg namesakes.
“They are a fantastic side and they won by a good margin [56-14], but when you look at the whole game, the Lions lacked what the Boks had.
“They didn’t dominate the set piece against a very young team. You would have expected them to dominate the scrums, lineouts and collisions, but they didn’t.
“Instead, they scored tries because they’re good and they have talented individuals and defending the way they scored tries – amongst the backs – is the Springboks’ biggest strength.”
Venter, contrastingly, suggests that the Springboks produced a fantastic performance against Georgia and, despite the rustiness in their play, they showed the right intent.
“A lot of people might disagree with me, saying that the Boks were nowhere near their optimum, but I call it ‘fantastic’ because of the intensity they played with.
“There were things there – the way we reset our breakdown after the tackle, the way we chased kicks, the way we fell back on their kicks, the way we moved the line of attack – that were such an unbelievably good advert for what Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber are looking for in a Springbok performance.
“You might say they were rusty, and they were, and they made mistakes which was obviously going to happen, but what the Boks showed was testament to the spirit and attitude that is demanded by Jacques and Rassie.”
Venter is bold in his comparison of the Springboks and Lions’ first matches, concluding that the men in green may have the edge.
“All of a sudden, after watching those two matches, I found myself thinking that the pendulum has actually swung South Africa’s way a little bit.”
After another Covid-19 outbreak in the Springbok camp, and one in the Georgian camp, a second Test between the two sides looks unlikely. This will no doubt hamper Erasmus and Nienaber’s preparations for the Lions series.
Warren Gatland will also feel frustrated as his side’s match against the Bulls has been postponed indefinitely after positive tests in the Bulls camp.
The disruption wrought upon both the Springboks and the B&I Lions now leaves the series in a precarious position as the full extent of the situation gradually becomes clearer.