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Final flourish leaves Lions lamenting what might have been

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Bryn Palmer | 21:24 UK time, Saturday, 4 July 2009

Saturday evening, Johannesburg

Amid the euphoria of a record-equalling Lions victory in South Africa, captain Paul O'Connell encapsulated best the prevailing mood.

It struck him, he said, immediately the final whistle sounded at Ellis Park.

No doubt it will continue to gnaw away at the proud Irishman long after the dust has settled on one of the greatest, if not successful, Lions series ever.

"After we have got over enjoying this, we might be filled with regret," he said. "But that is sport. It can be so cruel...We could be looking at 'what ifs?' for a long time."

Phil Vickery

Saturday might have been the crowning glory of O'Connell's career. He might have been up there alongside the legendary Lions captains, Willie-John McBride and Martin Johnson, in leading a successful mission to South Africa.

Instead, after events in Durban and, particularly, Pretoria over the past two weekends, his consolation was merely a first victory in his sixth Lions Test.

But boy, it was some win, and should be a considerable comfort. The way this pride of 2009 summoned such intensity, emotion and élan to their game after the agony of their last-second defeat in the second Test was a staggering achievement.

South Africa had only lost twice at their spiritual home in 19 Tests since their readmission to Test rugby in 1994, and not since France last stormed the fortress in 2001.

But the Lions, much to the surprise of this observer and many others, not only summoned the furies for a third successive week, but produced the same emphatic 28-9 scoreline by which McBride's 1974 Lions beat the Boks in Pretoria.

Heroes were not hard to find.

Full-back Rob Kearney continued to look every inch a Lion, Tommy Bowe again showed what a talent he is, this time at centre, while alongside him Riki Flutey had a huge game defensively as well as creating the second of Shane Williams' tries.

The front five established a superb platform, allowing Martyn Williams and Jamie Heaslip to show off the full range of their back-row skills.

As beaten Boks captain John Smit admitted: "They were all over us in every department."

Every player seeking some redemption for recent woes found it with aplomb.

Phil Vickery, given a chance to assure the abiding memory of his Lions career was not his mauling by "The Beast" in Durban, responded superbly.

The first scrum of the game, when Springboks hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle popped up to concede a penalty, was hugely symbolic, and set the tone up front.

Vickery, the only player left who also featured in the Lions' last Test victory, in Brisbane in 2001, trooped off after 55 minutes to a deservedly warm reception.

Shane Williams, who conceded beforehand he had "beaten himself up" over his struggles on this tour, was a liberated force, coming off his wing to good effect and finishing off his tries like the World Player of the Year he is.

Ugo Monye also unleashed the frustration of his first Test foibles with a clenched-fists roar to celebrate his 70m interception try that took the Lions clear.

It meant that over the series they out-scored the Boks seven-five on tries, and 74-63 on aggregate points.

Bryan Habana

But O'Connell was not about to take any consolation in such statistical irrelevancies.

"Let's not lose track of the fact they won the series," he noted, adding finally: "That is all that matters."

Certainly these Lions did not achieve their ultimate goal. But the reception as they saluted their army of 30-odd thousand fans at the end told of other objectives fulfilled, not least a resurgence of pride and credibility after the calamity of 2005.

Those marvellous supporters, and no doubt those of you enthralled back home or elsewhere, appreciated the scale of the endeavour, even if they came up just short.

"What these players have achieved in five or six weeks should never be underestimated," said Ian McGeechan, who preserved his record of winning at least one Test on each of the four tours he has led as head coach over the past 20 years.

"They have played the world champions in their own backyard and given as good as they have got over three Tests, in one of the outstanding series I've been involved in."

As for O'Connell, the word he kept repeating time and time again as he pondered the emotions of this Lions experience was 'tough'.

Tough week. Tough series. Tough tour. Tough luck.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Not to sound too Spinal Tap...but there are very fine lines between winning and losing at the highest level.

    The Lions did not have much luck in this series....probably because the 1997 Lions used it all up (the worst Lions team to win a series).

    The series was lost in Durban really. They have been decimated by injures and it really is a credit to the the squad that they came through and won this test.

    You could quibble with a few selections but that is true in every tour. But what you cannot quibble with is that the players loved McGeechan and the coaches......there has not been any murmurings of discontent like there were in 1993, 2001, and 2005. That is a credit to McGeechan because it's not easy to unify a 4 country party on a few weeks.

  • Comment number 2.

    Going forward for future tours:
    1.the Lions need more time together;
    2. the host country should be forced to play their test players in the provincial games; and
    3. No midweek game between the 1st and second test.

  • Comment number 3.

    This tour surely, and particularly todays result, will put to death the absurd allegations that the lions should be scraped. As a spectator and a fan it has been enthralling to watch, and despite losing the series at least we won a test. Some of the cynics amongst us may try to point out that we were effectively playing a South African B side. We were without BOD, Roberts, Jenkins and Jones, not to mention of course we were playing an untried centre partnership with a winger at 13. Make no mistake coming into this game the momentum was ultimately with the Boks. Kearney had a huge game again but I'm tempted to give my man of the series to Tommy Bowe, who hardly put a foot wrong in all the time he played. Not that I want to get hung up on this issue but I don't feel S Williams is anywhere near as good as he was, the magic appears to have gone... Sure he scored twice today but all he needed was a good set of hands and the ability to run it in from distance - definition of what a winger is. Having said that though he did get better after his tries, and put in some big hits despite his small stature. I've been really impressed with the coaching staff as well this year, and barring any mishaps Geech is my pick to take on the Aussies in 4 years time. Should also make room for D Kidney as I think he's done a terrific job so far - not only for Ireland, but also Ireland A (Churchill Cup Winners). Has BOD got another 4 years left in him... Simon Shaw still made it and he's 3 years older the Brian will be in 2013. We shall see... we shall see...

    We shouldn't be to down-hearted though, after all we did win the series - after you add up our scores over the 3 tests, the Lions take it by 11 points. Thats an internationally recognized procedure isn't it?

  • Comment number 4.

    Well done to the Lions, we must unsure that the Lions live on in the future. To me it is still a what could of been tour, the injuries being my main concern. We all would have loved to have seen Tom Shanklin, Leigh Halfpenny, Thomas O'Leary, Jerry Flannery start in the matches and then the injuries to Jamie Roberts, O'Driscoll, Gethin Jenkins really put a dent into things. Hope all you boys get well especially Adam Jones who is out for 6 months. Congarts to the Boks on a test series win and congrats to the Lions on their victory in not ideal circumstances at Ellis park today something that has not been done by a international team in a while.

    I feel it is time for us to look at reducing the number of international or club matches these players are active in, maybe we should forget either the Autumn internationals or summer tours in the future. Lets have one or the other. Maybe if it is Lions year then we have no 6 Nations and have the Lions at home instead who knows?

  • Comment number 5.

    xpat73 wrote: Agreed with you totally.

    Going forward for future tours:
    1.the Lions need more time together;
    2. the host country should be forced to play their test players in the provincial games; and
    3. No midweek game between the 1st and second test.

    4. Reduction of matches in season, international or club.

    Also Euan Murray, Lee Bryne and anyone else I've missed, Lee hope you get that finger mended and get back to the Ospreys soon.

  • Comment number 6.

    Fantastic series - what an institution!!!!

    Far bigger then the world cup in my opinion; though obv i wouldnt turn down Eng regaining the Web Ellis Trophy.

    Massive respect for a group of players who came together with little time (professionalism being a hinderance rather than a benefit) and still taking on a team of world class operators (how many players could we legitimately claim are in the top 2 in their position in the world??Du Preez, Du Plessis, Matfield, Juan Smith, Botha, Spies, Habana surely all are!!!)

    Once again magnificent series - would obv like to see more top flight players in the warm ups to make sure everyone involved is hyped and raring to go.

    Will mirror a few peoples comments by raising concerns this is becoming a cash-cow for the SH teams; still rather it be like that than not at all!

  • Comment number 7.

    I would like to say thank you to the whole of the squad, coaches, management and conditioners. You have silenced all the 'nit picking critics' by playing with pride and continue the B&I Lions reputation as the top team to play for or against.
    I have the deepest respect for SA, they are worthy world cup champions and showed on there autumn tour that they could regularly score from first phase against all but Scotland. As the tour party was announced and then reduced by injuries I thought that we would have been lucky to come second.
    However, the tour party have produced performances that are far superior than the individual components, as everybody who has been on tours knows as you get to the last match and count who is still standing, have played wingers in the back row or centre etc, you hope that you can just keep in touch.
    The B&I Lions today did so much more against the SA team of the future, by their total committment to each other (had SA got there noses in front early door it would have been a massacre).
    Phil Vickery confronted his demons and set the tone for all to follow, and follow they did, one and all, none more than Shane whom finally overcame his nerves to put in an exemplary performance that deservedly received MOM. Kearney & Heslip have developed over the tour into potential future Lions captains.
    SA had not become a poor side, they just could not develop a secure attacking platform to challange the makeshift Lions midfield partnership.
    Given all the negative comments over the previous week I am sure that this match will have us all filling the piggy banks for the next 4 years and put doubts in the minds of SA for 12 years hence. Look out Australia, the B&I Lions are coming your way next.

    Congratulations to all tourists

  • Comment number 8.

    Well it's all over! Well done South Africa you won the series 2-1 and proved you are the best team in the world! but a little humility please, it was that close. There has been debate about certain decisions and actions but hey that's sport. It was a great series and bodes well for the future.

    Good luck in the tri-nations "GO SPRINKBOKS!"

  • Comment number 9.

    This Thirda Test proves everything that I have said before the 1st Test even began and have consistently said throughout the series:

    1) that if we play Rugy at them and don't kick we will beat them, they'll open up

    2) That kicking to them is a waste of time

    3) Ugo Monye is very good at running in straight lines

    4) Shane Williams is a really good, play a type of game that will suit him ie keeping the ball alive and you'll see what you get

    5) Martin Williams should have been playing from the start in every Test side

    6) What a wasted opportunity this will be that we approached the game trying to out muscle them and instead we should have focused on playing our game as they wont be able to handle it

    We won that game because we did not play into their strengths, we kept possession and they couldn't touch us. WShen box kick billy ie Ellis came on and we started kickig to them they looked good, started coming back into the game even though it was for about 4 minutes it still showed what happens when you kick to them, Steyn wiull blast you off the park.

    What a shame, let's wait another 4 years for mass bouts of insecurity about whether we should try and contain the opposition or just pick our best players and play a style of Rugby that was present when we had a our greatest years in NZ and SA in the seventies.

    Sad that I predicted this from the outset, wish I had been wrong.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well here SuperGedwards9 maybe you should apply for the job of head coach for Australia 2013 eh? or better still build a bridge and get over it!

    some of your points are like the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream flavour - Half Baked. S Williams for example, did not deserve to be man of the match, in my opinion. He didn't create any of the 3 Lions tries he was just in the right place, at the right time to finish them off. Nothing more. Aside yes from a few good tackles, particularly against Mayfield was it?

    Why Ellis was brought on? I don't know... Why he was touring in the first place? Again questionable. And again we had so many players capable of breaking through the South African line, and regrettably supergedwards is right again we kicked away, when the ball was in out hands far too much in the first and second tests. Ah what might have been...

    p.s i wish you had been wrong as well...

  • Comment number 11.

    I've read many posts over the last few days saying that the Boks would stuff the BIL in the last test. I (half-heartedly) ventured to suggest that the BIL would not be 'spanked' as one blogger put it, but would give them a good game. Well, they did.. I am the first one to admit that the Boks team contained 10 or 11 players that would not make the first, cutting edge Boks 15, but the Lions were 'weakened' too - Jenkins, Jones, BOD, Roberts et al - and far from being 'spanked', they comfortably beat a very good Boks side (if not second string, say one and a half string) by 17 points.
    Main point: the Lions must continue! Ask Saffers about this tour and the stiff competition the Lions provided (the first 2 tests were close. Very close).. The Lions can and should continue to tour the SH and will provide robust opposition to NZ, Boks and Aussies..
    2nd point: Many bloggers have championed players from their own country, region, county or club and rightly so in many cases. For instance, I'm Welsh, a lifelong Scarlet supporter and I think Mark Jones is up there amongst the best wings in the world. He didn't get picked. Ok, so I get behind the ones who did. And that is what is missing from many blogs.. Shane this, Vickery that, O'Gara this, Mears that, etc etc.. Being picked for the Lions is the pinnacle of a player's career - over and above being picked for your country (not my opinion - taken from numerous Lions' quotes).. In the end, there are 1000s of rugby supporters who would each have their own preferences on team selection and no squad could possibly please every one of them - so get behind the one that has been picked! I have.. Yes, I've torn my hair out sometimes and jumped into the air with joy at such skilful displays at other times.. And that's the way it is.. The Lions were chosen: Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland players. Go with it, for better or for worse. On this occasion, better. A 2-1 defeat could have been a 2-1 win, or better. I am very optimistic for the future - roll on Australia!

  • Comment number 12.

    Well what a test series.
    I just cannot believe there are some people questioning the future of lions tours and what a tour it has been.

    Can SA really hold their heads high after their series victory? I feel they fell short in many departments and although being world champions/bully boys they were shown to be distinctly average more often than not during this tour.

    Glad for vickery and the way he "got one over the beast" to show his ridiculous amount of caps really are worth something and that some clown who cant really cant scrummage is better than him was a good way to bow out of international rugby. (IM welsh BTW!)

    Adam Jones and Matthew rhys set them up last week and the english boys finished them off this week. I thought it was pathetic how SA wore white arm bands "Justice" for Bakkies it may have been a legitimate clear out but adam jones is out for six months bakkies is out for two weeks missing one game lets get some perspective here. If you cant do the time dont do the crime and all that!!

    Congratulations to the lions Anyhow!

    SA becoming increasingly lucky and "PDV lets blind people just 'cos thats sport" what a clown the sooner he slips out of rugby and the spotlight the better.

  • Comment number 13.

    Great win in the final test,the what ifs will always be there but no one can question the heart and commitment of any of the players. Heros one and all. To those of you who questioned the leadership of POC all the way through this tour hang your heads in shame, a true leader, strong after each loss and humble in victory. Led from the front as he always does, puts his head where others are afraid to put their foot. One of the games true gentlemen - Good on you Paul, looking forward to watch you lift the HC again next year. I echo the comments of an eailier post - regardless of your country or club, on this tour we were all lions so lets support the team as picked and get behind our playes and captain.
    That said I'm looking forward to the tour in four years time - hope we get a game in Perth, it would be good to see some good rugby without having to travel a few thousand miles!!

  • Comment number 14.

    brilliant series, saffers just about deserved their series win as they made fewer errors when it really mattered.

    only complaint was the one-eyed south african commentators we had to endure but they're still nothing on the aussies.

  • Comment number 15.

    My last comment was before the second test in Pretoria,when I said that the series would be won by 5.00 pm on that saturday.It was.
    Making 10 changes for the last test gave the Lions a great chance and the Lions took it with both hands and all credit to them.
    Jake White said of this Bok team after they won the World Cup that they were still a young side and the best was still to come.
    This is the worrying part as to my way if they had played to their full potential the difference between the two sides would have been more evident.
    Unfortunately we don't have Jake White/Eddie Jones anymore,we have Mr de Villiers.

  • Comment number 16.

    yes, very enjoyable series
    and this final test win was well deserved
    but at the end of the first half I thought the ghost of ROG had struck again....less than a minute to go..england are given a let-off with a penalty well inside their 22...surely just waste a bit of time and then kick it out...or even go for the sticks! that would have been cheeky..but no! boot up field, fail to find touch and then give away a penalty..3 points gifted to the Boks...
    they are great players and inevitably will occasionally make mistakes..but that was just dumb!

  • Comment number 17.

    Well done Lions, only one side in it on Saturday, two magic tries.
    Another wounderful game of cut and thrust

    And the knee in the back incident? No comments

  • Comment number 18.

    Well SJBCAPE, I did not see the knee in the back as malicious. What supprises me however is the lack of consistency. Why was the Lions player (Sheriden?) not cited for clearing out the ruck al a Botha the week before?

    Great series, can't wait for the next one down under. Well done to both teams for putting on such a great display.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi guys,
    I was at the stadium yesterday, just a few points I thought I would raise.

    1)You have a fantastic set of fans, they were always jovial and good natured.

    2)I just didn't understand how they could celebrate like they had just won the world cup, whilst the following factors need to be taken into account:
    2.1)We have an absolute muppet of a coach
    2.2)We were resting players for the Tri Nations, and that was basically our 2nd side
    2.3)You guys get to pick the best players from 4 nations

    3)Just in case you think us South Africans condone Schalks actions in the 2nd test, what he did was incredibly stupid and filthy and he deserves all the punishment he gets (though a few of the lions players were a bit naughty in other parts of the game & could have been cited)

    4)I hope Peter De Villers would wake up and realise what a muppet and token coach he actually is. He landed up with Jake Wites world cup winning team and just had to keep doing the same things, yet he is unravelling a great team. Oh and he makes our nation look like a bunch of idiots with his comments.

    5)What would you think the outcome would be if we had a southern hemisphere "Lions" side with the best of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia play against the British and Irish Lions?

    6)Finally, it was a great series, and I can't wait to have your fans back here, they were awesome!

    Ps: to the two fans who were in front of us with their "Davey Crocket" hate on and their massive flags, I hope you preferred my mates version to your chant of "Lions, Lions", with "2:1, 2:1"

  • Comment number 20.

    Nice to see WillyGilly1990 Shane Williams bashing society is still going strong.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks sparklejonesy for great comments and no bias, it is appreciated here, as i for one have been getting really annoyed at people who will not put thier national bias aside for 3 weeks very 4 years.
    I went to N.Z. on last tour and despite aweful rugby i met great rugby supporters from all 4 nations. I will be going to Aus after missing this series. I dont care who wears the Lions shirt as long as they give thier all, which i think everyone of them did. I am English through and through but take my hat off to the Welsh front row of last week, they were imense. Kearney has to be find of the tour, and thank heavans some one in interbational rugby has finally used Shaw, this guy should have 50/60 caps for England. Thank you to all the 4 nations for providing the best series for years.

  • Comment number 22.

    Following all the consternation & heated comments following the second test, I just wanted to congratulate the Lions on living up to their name by giving the Boks a bit of mauling in the third test. I thought the BILs would be easy pickings, but it was the Boks who lost the "Spring" in their step. The BILs showed good character.

  • Comment number 23.

    What can I say, first Scottish player to play in a test side and we win!!! hey Ho! great number of what ifs.

    Overall pretty impressive squad and full credit to the team who did step up to the mark yesterday!

    Long may the Loins continue!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    @ Luke, #19

    Gracious and thoughtful comments, good on you. Spent a long time in SA myself lately (business not pleasure alas) and I know that PDV's comments and so on don't reflect what the great majority of enthusiastic, welcoming and hugely knowledgeable fans think.

    Sure, the Boks rested some stars but I'm guessing there must be a bit of disappointment that none of those coming in really put their hands up for tri-nations selection. Saw Morné Steyn playing for the Bulls in the S14 and thought he should be a certain starter - but looked ordinary yesterday. Likewise Kankowski and pretty much the whole back 5 with the exception of Fourie. You also seem to have a problem at hooker - du Plessis doesn't look in top form and Ralepelle was horribly exposed at scrum time. How long before Smit goes back where he belongs? And don't forget that the Lions had a lot of guys missing too - nearly half the original party by the end of yesterday's game, when the team on the field included the fourth-choice (not originally selected) hooker, tight-head and blindside and a midfield pairing of a scrum-half and a winger.

    I guess the celebrations are because the Lions are a scratch side of guys who spend 3 years and 11 months trying to beat each other. Getting them to gel is a big ask. Same goes for the fans - it's a refreshing novelty cheering on players who are normally the opposition. You learn, perhaps grudgingly, to respect their ability, but having them on what's now your side is a big difference. I was yelling at Ugo Monye yesterday just as much as, say, when Shane Williams scored in the grand slam decider last year. But come February at Twickenham he'll be the enemy again... So we maybe all get a bit more enthusiastic than the series scoreline might justify (and just to be clear, the Boks were worthy 2-1 winners for me).

    BTW there was, IIRC, a Baa-Baas style northern hemisphere v southern hemisphere game for charity a couple of years back, which the southerners won easily. Not sure a Lions v Tri-Nations game would go the same way: the latter would be far stronger on paper but as I say it's about making a team out of usually-opposing individuals. On yesterday's evidence, at least, the Lions can still do that.

  • Comment number 25.

    Agree with ScarletIeu in post 11.
    There were disappointments in original squad selection for all, but at the end of it, the selection was right (except perhaps Croft should have been there from the start). The point was they were all our boys irrespective of which 6N team and they have done us proud.

    I would question the comment that Shane 'only needed a good pair of hands to get his tries'. I would add the tactical nous of positioning himself in the right place and the stamina and speed to finish ahead of the defence. Nothing should be taken away from the offloads by Heaslip and especially Flutey to make the tries, which were slick.

    I was a bit concerned about the Boks wearing of the armbands, it sets a dangerous precedent, that if unchecked sees rugby falling into the contemptuous world of the round ball game.

    All in all, very staidfying performance. Great to see Vickery tame the Beast and Martyn show his class in the loose. Glad to see POC lead from the front and good to hear the plaudits for Ross Ford. Kearney was superb and Bowe and Flutey made a great pairing. Bowe definitely Lion of the series.

    Only blot was Shaw's reckless knee-job. Deserved yellow and surely a ban. Such a shame as he's a brilliant player.

    Good memories, plenty of might-have beens, but the Boks won and well done to them.

  • Comment number 26.

    Tim Sims at 24.

    Agree (although Monye will be the 'enemy' come the 6N!). I was at the North v South game - it was many moons ago, Serge Blanco and Naas Botha were still at their prime. I can tell you the Southern Hemisphere stuffed us good and proper, but then two scratch sides, minimum preparation. One side wanted it more - somewhat.

    A tri-N team would be interesting, but it all depends on how they gel. If you just 'turned up and played' the Baa-Baas would wipe the floor with the opposition every time. preparation would be key.

    Still think this is all a cosy club and the likes of Argentina and Pacific Islands are shunted into the background. Maybe something should be done (A warm up test against the Argies or the PI being allowed to tour with their strongest team perhaps?) Then there's Japan and the IRB's disinterest in developing any nations aoutside the big 8. Oops, I've started...

    Anyway, great series. well done to all.

  • Comment number 27.

    Luke-SAfan - Post 19:

    Good comments, I agree with a lot of what you say. In response to your question about celebrating like they'd won the world cup. Paul O'Connell, Lions captian, actually said in the interview after the game that he hoped people didn't mistake the celebrations for some kind of victory lap. They were doing a lap to thank the fans who'd spent thousand of pounds to follow the team and stayed loyal and voiciferous until the end. It was just a big thank you to the fans, and he then acknowledge that they were under no illusions that they had lost the test series.

    No winning mentality intended, just a lap of the stadium for the fans!

  • Comment number 28.

    Well played Lions.

    To all the lovers of "Sensationalism", fans & jornalists alike; here is a sensational story...

    ......RUGBY. The greatest game played by real men, who get hammered left, right and centre and at the end of the game shake hands.

    Cant wait for the tri-nations!

    Go bokka!

  • Comment number 29.

    Talerddig, no, there was another one more recently, at Twickenham; I think it was for tsunami relief or something. One of the Bergamascos - I forget which, but he was the token Italian - scored the only try for the NH in a comprehensive hammering IIRC.

    Completely agree re developing nations - I see the Japanese winger Ohata has broken Campese's record for international tries. Not in the same league as a player (who is?) but I bet he doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

  • Comment number 30.

    Glad I missed that one, Tim!

    I hope Japan get the WC. Touring teams to Argentina should really be thinking of warm-up games against Uruguay - it's only across the River Plate - and the 6N maybe should think of a 2nd tier with a play-off game against the winners and the wooden spoons in the main stream. Give the Romanians etc something to strive for. (and yes, I know Wales would have been participating a few years back. I was unlucky enough to have my best ever seat at Cardiff when the Romanians beat us. But they've never been allowed to progress. Like a few more teams I could mention)

  • Comment number 31.

    The BOKs won because of one of the best clutch kicks you will ever see. The pressure was immense.

    I don't know how many fit players were actually available for selection yesterday, but the 15 that played were awsome.

    I thought the Shaw kneeing was deliberate foul play, and have no problems with the yellow card, or the short ban he deserves, however, he seemd to make the difference in the last 2 tests.

    Perhaps the Lions players can wear armbands saying juctice 4 after he gets his ban, but the BOKs scrum half won't be out for 6 months.

    The series will be remembered for great, compbative, rugby, gouging and stupid comments by the BOKs coach.

    But for the Morné kick, the series would have been drawn, which would have been a great result.

    The BOKs were worthy winners overall, but the margin was negligible.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great to see some English players in the team yesterday!! I dont care what people say on here but, you have to beat up the Boks upfront if you want to win a test match. Thats what the English did yesterday. Worsley tackled like an absolute mad man and this allowed spilt ball to be picked up and used by the flair players. Vickery and Sheridan were great in the rucks, mauls and at scrum time and I lost count on how many double tackles they did together. Shaw was his normal destructive self and Fluety showed hes as good as any other centre in the Northern Hemesphere!!!! All in all I think the Lions played very well yesterday but, the Boks deserved the Series win!

  • Comment number 33.

    i think it really rankles a lot of english fans that shane is a great player and they have had a hard time of it when he's been picking up grand slams, scoring for wales against the southern hemisphere sides and winning the IRB player of the year

    now they are slating him because he didn't step anyone for his tries - was the same critism dished out for monye for his run in tries in the warm ups?

    grow up lads - shane will be remembered as an all time great, rightly so. get used to it

  • Comment number 34.

    Thanks Bryn for your blogs throughout.

    I wanted to ask you about the possibility of playing warm-up matches elsewhere, but see 26/talerddigthank has beaten me to it.

    If we did want a slightly longer tour, with higher intensity warm-up matches, then should we consider warm-up matches against Argentina or the Pacific Islands? I'm assuming here events like the Churchill Cup are still more suitable for North American and other European sides as stands.

    The IRB and the individual rugby unions would love the profile of the matches and helps them develop their game (+ any extra tourism that the Lions bring). I'm confident that many Lions fans would love the opportunity to visit say Tonga+Fiji before NZ or Argentina before Australia (though I appreciate the expense will be too much for others).

  • Comment number 35.

    MorrisDavies I resent remark, I was only making the point that people should see through the fact that he scored 2 tries, and shouldn't really give him a man of the match performance. There where a lot of good players on the pitch yesterday in that red jersey, and certainly Shane could possibly be considered to be one of them. But in my opinion, no. As I've already pointed out, and you can't deny this, was just in the right place at the right time to finish off his 2 tries. Hey don't get me wrong that's a skill in its self, I know I wouldn't have been anywhere near there had I been playing at 11 (the lions could get desperate...) But that in my opinion shouldn't have got him the man of the match performance, sorry...

  • Comment number 36.

    WillyGilly - a good point. Flutey, Kearney and Heaslip stepped up to the plate also (sorry, i know it's not baseball). Shane did more than score tries yesterday. I saw some great cover S-H work for example (and he was turned over and he sliced a clearance, so hold the spot in Olympus...)

    Wileszie, I think there were more than english on the park yesterday, but i have a feeling we've all been down this road before. A solid team performance from the British and Irish Lions, both sides were weakened but the Lions wanted it more.

    I have joined the Phil Vickery resurrection society. Well done Vicks!

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree Shane was lucky to get MOTM but these things (a) are pretty meaningless; and (b) tend to be given to backs who do the pretty stuff rather than those who do the grunt work at set-piece/breakdown or in defence. Phillips, Heaslip or Sheridan, probably in that order, for me.

    Having said that he did look very sharp - better than he's played since the 6N opener. You don't get into a position to take 2 try-scoring passes by accident. And if he'd chipped Steyn rather than cross-kicking he'd probably have scored 3.

  • Comment number 38.

    I just want to know what was going on in the centre when Flutey got injured. Why did Geech put on Ellis and move Mike Phillips (a position he has never played before) when we had James Hook on the bench. Just dont understand!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Phillips has filled in as an emergency centre for the Ospreys several times, once for Wales, and, briefly, for the Lions against the (Gauteng) Lions on this tour. Point is, I think, that he's much more solid in defence than Hook, and the Lions had no need at all for Hook's fancy bag of tricks when looking to close the game out (although he'd have had more of a chance with the kick that Kearney missed). Thought it was mad myself at the time but Phillips' defence in the last quarter was awesome. An inspired move.

  • Comment number 40.

    Methinks Willgilly1990 has never played rugby. Shane Williams is head and shoulders above the other left wingers on this tour even when off form. Moyne and Fitzgerald, although very good players, are youngsters learning their trade and were never going to perform under the pressure cooker cauldren of the first 2 tests. Huge mistake not picking him for that 1st test. Get off his back Mr Willgilly and say something positive about how well he played yesterday. He read both opportunities perfectly, and reacted well to sniff the chances before they appeared. An instinctive player that anyone who knows about rugby recognises as being one of the very best. He scares even the best defences and has also played better defensively than the other left wingers on this tour. Well done Lions - brilliant yesterday and very very unlucky not to have won the series. And well done to Vickery - another top player that all those who know the game recognise has been unfairly criticised because of a combination of bad refeering in the 1st test, and the shortcomings of others around him in that 1st test scrum.

  • Comment number 41.

    Yes a great series, between two great teams. Anyone who even dreams/thoughts of shelving the Lions as a touring party can wake up and apologise. I have been (like so many others ex players and fans) spellbound by the games. The tour had everything including its share of controversy. Just look at the number of posts on the blog about Burger and the eye gouging. First and foremost well done the Lions for a couragoeus display and great last test win, and congrats to RSA for their series win. After all the debate, have to put in a word for the ref yesterday - he showed a control and professionalism that was missing in the first two games.
    Watched the game in a bar yesterday and the atmosphere was roudy but good natured between supporters, with SA fans in the majority. One of them nodded at me in apreciation at one point in the game when he saw a great bit of play from the lions....thats what this game is about, and lets not forget it! I saw some great play on both sides yesterday and throughout the series. For Lions Kearney was a revelation more Byrne than Byrne almost. I was really impressed with Jones too yesterday, so solid and enterprising, how many times did he just move the ball, just run it at the boks, that was great to see. For SA Steyn really impressed me with his speed strength and determination. Du Preez is a genuinely great scrum half and Brian Habana agin scored a fantastic try in the second test.
    One thing everyone seems to agree on is PDV...enough said there.

    Finally thanks to those on the SA side for their comments in support of fairness and keeping the game free of foul/dangerous play. This applies to both sides and at all levels. I felt that in keeping with some arm bands worn by the SA players Justice was done yesterday, though it was not in the way they meant it.

    And I can't wait till the next tour.....

    Ps Yebogo, thanks for your congrats, same to you.

  • Comment number 42.

    WillyGilly1990, I was supprised that he won man of the match yesterday but I personally think that Williams' performance yesterday was the the best wing performance by any of them in the 3 tests - I stand by the opinion that he should have been in the test team from the begining.

  • Comment number 43.

    What a match! Great to see us give them a hiding. Should have been more points.
    Thought most of the team played really well, particularly Heaslip. S Jones has really impressed me in the last coule of games very solid at 10.
    Phillips tackled well although his distribution was slow at times and made a good job of switching to centre as did Bowe. S Williams took the second try very well but I wouldn't have given him man of the match. I reckon Flutey deserved it. Glad Vickery regained some self respect. Great game and a great team performance. Well done the Lions!

  • Comment number 44.

    Great blog, great tour. My emotions are all over the show, but there has been a lot to digest and learn from the tour for coaches, players and followers, and the home countries would do well to take the basic lessons on board. If they do, the next Lions tour will do better.

    With no disrespect intended to anybody involved, I for one think that this Lions tour was built on the foundation of several years of relatively ordinary Six Nations competitition, and one win in three tests should be seen as a pretty good reflection on the Lions' coaches and players. A change of vision will be needed to improve on that.

    In general - I emphasise that phrase - the home unions need to look at improving their domestic nurseries to augment their ability to select international-quality players in good form and peak condition for every position and for every test. The sustained aggression and competiveness of test players and potential test players needs to be stimulated, not curbed: rugby simply isn't a game for cissies. The level of domestic competition needs to be stepped up, so that there will be no room for tactically naive players at the highest level, and so that every position in every national team is challenged for by several properly case-hardened, seasoned and competitive contenders.

    I appreciate that there will be folk who think that those things are already being sufficiently done, but they are simply wrong, because the home nations do not fare as well as player numbers and funding suggest they should do against the southern hemisphere "big three". I also know that there will be those among whom the focus which I suggest will be unpopular, not least because a focus on international competition is sure to have implications for club competition. Still, I submit that only if the necessary things are done will the Lions re-assume the standing and re-achieve the results which they enjoyed in the seventies.

    I'd like that, and I think many other folk would. The Lions can do their following proud, and to my mind deserve every support in doing that. If it can't be achieved, we shall forever be dining on the scant dish of "might-have-been". And isn't that the curse of Tantalus afflicting every reader of this blog right now - that it really might have been?

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    Thanks to the Saffer supporters who congratulated us on our victory, well done to them on their series win.


    Following all the consternation & heated comments following the second test, I just wanted to congratulate the Lions on living up to their name by giving the Boks a bit of mauling in the third test. I thought the BILs would be easy pickings, but it was the Boks who lost the "Spring" in their step. The BILs showed good character.

    Well said my friend amazing the turn around in your attitude, what a transformation..Lions from kitty cats to Bok bashes!!

  • Comment number 47.

    The way I look at sport is that you create your own luck and are ultimately responsible for your own destiny.

    On these grounds the Lions should of never let South Africa back into the second test. We can complain all we like about the Burger incident, but you have to accept the referee's decision and get on with the game.

    One thing I believe that has been lost in the third test euphoria was the fact that the Lions were playing a South African team with 10 changes. This weakened them. The Lions did play well though and deserved victory.

  • Comment number 48.

    Okay my earlier comments seem to taken slightly out of context. So comments 40 and 42 allow me a chance to redeem myself. My only quam with S Williams in yesterday's match was that he got the man of the match award, in my opinion he didn't do enough to deserve it - but hey maybe that's just me. If you'll note I do say something positive about him in my previous post 3. Whilst I agree Shane stands 'head and shoulders' above Monye and Fitzgerald (albeit not height wise) he couldn't have been picked for the either of the first 2 tests as Geech said he was picking on form. On talent Williams wins hands down, on recent form however it had to be either of the others. Also I'd like it to be noted LionstobeatSA that I played at scrum half for several years. Okay so I haven't played since leaving school, but the boys who play rugby at my University are terribly big... I'm not...

  • Comment number 49.

    I think you need to say that had you three different referes the lions could have won 3-0. I know that sound ridiculous but seriously, vickery vs the beast in the 1st game, you saw what happened. 3rd test vickery vs the beast, you saw wat happened, theres no way shaw makes that much difference. I know your supposed to play to the referee but if the referee ties your arm behind your back then its hardly a fair contest.

    On a positive note, the likes of Croft, Ferris, Roberts, Heaslip in the last test, Bowe before the tests, Byrne and Kearney have all anouced themselves as quality players.

  • Comment number 50.

    I also agree than Shane Williams should not have started the first two tests. In the midweek games prior to those matches he did not show enough to deserve a place in the strating line-up and was at times a liability to the team. He looked out of form and a bit lost.

    Good on him however for playing exceptionally well in the final test and proving the doubters wrong. Its just unfortunate that his form on tour up to that point had been poor.

    To use a football example, why play an out of form striker in a world cup just in the hope he may come good. Its a big gamble. When you have a three match test series, the Lions could not afford to give him the time to get his form back. He had his chance in the mid-week games to do that.

  • Comment number 51.


    Yes SA rested players. The lions also made many changes, including positional ones. By rights we should have lost heavily. I guess SA rugby lacks strength in depth because 4 years ago NZ could have changed the full 22 and still stuffed the lions.

    In answer to your question about a SH 'lions' team, sounds a lot like the all blacks to me (NZ and whoever they want to nationalise from the pacific islands), and it works pretty well.

    What happened to all the rest of the SA rugby fans who have been trolling the BBC forums this past few weeks?

  • Comment number 52.

    I think many mistakes were made in the selection of the team and bench for the test series. I think it was the bench selection that let us down in the 2nd test which is why we lost. If we'd had Monye and Flutey on the bench instead of O'Gara and Williams it would have been a different story. Many people don't realise that Flutey could be perfectly good outside half and would provide cover in more positsions than O Gara whose been dreadful. Kearney could have kicked the goals if Jones had got injured as well. one thing the tour definately missed was a fit johnny wilkinson as bench cover. Ferris and Flannery were also big losses but Rees and Croft came through well, if only Williams had been fitter maybe he would have started the first two tests, (martyn that is.) Shane Williams should have started whihc is what most people knew , hes a big game player and relishes open matches. Bowe is a great player but he hasnt been the best winger in the union for many years. Form is only an indicator. Both williams's should have started the whole series in my mind.

    team of the tour

    15. Rob Kearney
    14. Tommy Bowe
    13. Brian O'Driscoll
    12. Jamie Roberts
    11. Shane Williams
    10. Stephen Jones
    9. Mike Phillips
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    7. Martyn Williams
    6. Tom Croft
    5. Simon Shaw
    4. Paul O'Connell
    3. Adam Jones
    2. Matthew Rees
    1. Gethin Jenkins


    Ross Ford
    Andrew Sheridan
    Alun Wyn Jones
    David Wallace
    Harry Ellis
    Riki Flutey/James Hook
    Ugo Monye

    If this team had stayed together it would have won the series - add in flannery, ferris and even wilkinson and the team would extremely strong. Even though roberts was so good i think hes a bit one dimensional and flutey should have been given more of a game in the tests. He was the best player in the six nations in my mind.

    The lions should tour every two years or have some home matches after a tour, they are the best team in the world but they need more time together and more matches. Everyone could see how fast they were improving and given a few more matches theyd be world beaters. I say matches against france and new zealand at the end of this tour. I dont want it to be over and im sure the players feel the same way give them a months holiday in the bahamas and get em bk for some more rugby. Lions Rule!

  • Comment number 53.

    Congrats Lions - well deserved win from a SA fan. Loved watching game - some great rugby and some wonderful tries! One never likes to loose , but after all it is just a game and it is about the game. Rugby won on the day

    The better team won - No excuses for 10 new players in the side. That was the side that represented SA and they lost. There are some really talented players in that group of 10 so we can't use that as an excuse - I thought they would do better but didn't.

    I was really pleased that the Lions supporters had something to cheer about- heck they deserved it - the best supporters in the world!

    Sorry that the tour is over but as I now live in Oz I look forward to the next Lions tour down under. I know who I'll be shouting for.

    Hope the chariots carry the faithful home sweetly - enjoy the success and relish the victors spoils of the last test. Well done.

    Ps. lets hope Poms go one better and win the ashes! (I do love OZ, awesome country and great people, but have a way to go before I support the cricket team)

  • Comment number 54.

    I am very disappointed with some comments of the likes of Smit, PDV etc throughout which have appeared to condone unacceptable play.

    I actually saw Burger's act only recently and was speechless by it. I found it hard to see it as an accident. Then this nonsense about Botha. he was cited by a neutral, banned by a neutral and the appeal failed in front of a neutral. It's done, move on. Anything else is disrepute

    The armbands and PDV's 'ballet' is a bit like Mourinho's untouchable attitude in football.

    It detracts from a great performance from world champions and I hope the IRB will do something to stop this attitude from spreading.

    Nobody is untouchable, irrespective of shirt.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    *Shane williams-
    -Turned over 3 times (at least) yesterday
    -Did very little apart from benefit from the brilliance of flutey and heaslip
    -Ran in 2 tries that I believe any person with two functioning legs and one eye could have........brilliant

    -Proved allun wyn jones and lee mears were the problem and that as suspected adam jones hasn't suddenly become a world class prop

    *Let's not forget that this was a second string SA side
    *Yes the lions had injuries but the best player in the last 2 games was Kearney and if not for an injury he wouldn't have started 2nd test....point being lions didn't really know the best side anyway
    *Lions had everything to prove....on the back foot,fighting to save the brand/concept of the lions, SA whilst of course 'up for it' had nothing like the intensity of 1st/2nd test

    *to the idiot who said Martyn Williams should of started all tests....why?the man realy needs to find a gym along with O'gara...if the SA had been as physical as last two tests he would of left in a body bag
    *to another idiot who said POC had proved his critics lost the series!!!!!
    *Monye should never have been dropped for second test, great kicking, strong running, defencively superb.....and unlike shane had to actually use ability to intercept pass.....also mr williams would have been caught.

    Incidently you lot do know we LOST THE SERIES, stop accepting mediocre, trying our best, doing the shirt proud and all other sound bites.....four nations SHOULD beat one, winning is evrything

  • Comment number 57.

    incredible sour grapes england2003,

    Ran in 2 tries that I believe any person with two functioning legs and one eye could have?

    any person with two functioning legs and one eye who kept up with the sprint and had the wherewithall to read the game and be in the right place at the right time to take the right pass and accelerate away from the opposition. Easy, ask anyone.

    You sound like the Welsh myopics of the past who had it in for Jonny (angelic choirs) Wilkinson and Will Carling in the past. Wonder what you would have said if Shane Williams was an Englishman. Sad. The rest of your comments I won't even bother with, they are lamentable.

    I don't see anyone basking in the glory of defeat here and winning isn't everything. that mentality leads to actively seeking to injure your opponents for the greater good. Bit like Test 2.

    Best thing you should do is ignore the Lions tours, they are not your team. Contaminated by Celts and foreign coaches. Either you are stirring it for the fun or you have not watched any of the tour.

  • Comment number 58.

    Re: 27 by griffthemagicdragon

    Hi Griff,
    Sorry if I was misunderstood, I meant to say was that I didn't understand why the fans were jumping up and down and whooping and hollering at us SA fans after each 3 points / try like it was a world cup final.

    Just didnt make sense to me and we had to remind them of "2-1"....

    Anyway, I stayed in the box we were in for quite sometime after the game, and it was rousing to say the lease to see the players saluting the awesome fans you have on their "lap of honour".

    I am pretty sure you guys would not have seen it on tv, but the high light of the day was to see all the BIL fans trying to beat our hapless security guards and try run across the field. Judging by some of the side steps your fans possess, you guys should sign them up for the Aus tour!

    All in all a great set of fans and very knowledgable, I would welcome you chaps back here anytime.

    On a side note, any of the fans who did tour our country, what are your thought and honest assessments of our country?

  • Comment number 59.

    england2003 as your name implies we know what players you support, please put the handbags away and not show National bias.

    Monye did really well yesterday and took the interception well....did he actually create anything...did Shane they did their jobs and finished.The only wing on the tour that created tries was Tommy Bowe.

    Martyn Williams your comment is nonsense I'm not even going to reply to such a anti-welsh comment.

    Phil Vickery-It's pretty obvious now that the Beast bored in the second test to blame Lee Mears and Alun Wyn Jones is incorrect.

    All the players did well yesterday even the English ones;]

    yes we lost the series but one kick was the difference that's it.

  • Comment number 60.

    We seem to like the words 'what if' and 'if only', but it does not make a difference to the scoreboard. The problem is that it seems to be in every post mortem of British rugby. I felt insulted when South Africa actually made ten changes to a team that beat us twice. It was as if the Lions winning did not matter. Our team's performance seems to have less impact when playing an opposing countries 'B' team, if that. We drew to the 'B' team, even thought we had enough experienced players to select. The Lions should have thumped them.
    The other problem is that the opposing side is always taken to task about their 'fair' play, but I think that is a blinkered view on the game. The level of the wrong does not matter, it is the wrong.
    My view is to play rugby and that is something we have fallen short of for decades (Kicking is not rugby).
    I disagree with you, Bryn, on the greatest Lions tour ever. 1974 was the best ever. We won evry match execpt for the one draw.

  • Comment number 61.

    I reckon england2003 is a very bitter Clive Woodward in disguise... whilst winning is in some cases everything, when one loses one must do so gracefully and maintain a little bit of credibility and respect. You don't point fingers at certain players on the pitch stating 'This was your fault, you shouldn't even have been playing!'

    The following applies to everyone (including myself I guess), we are all spectators, the people like Geech and co, who make the decisions know a hell of a lot more about rugby and the players than we do...

  • Comment number 62.

    No, he can't be SCW as he'd have been crying for Neil Back to start

  • Comment number 63.


    'any person with two functioning legs and one eye who kept up with the sprint and had the wherewithall to read the game and be in the right place at the right time to take the right pass and accelerate away from the opposition. Easy, ask anyone.'

    What are you on about??? for a start it was on williams' wing, it's not as though he tracked the play from centre ala o'driscoll or came seering in from the other wing, flutey and heaslip made both tries (especially flutey) and as for his speed??????????????WHAT SPEED, the guy is quick over 5-10 yards pureley down to his lack of height! WOW he managed to keep up with heaslip and flutey.......he was just lucky habanna wasn't playing (in fact seeing as the lions team was picked AFTER the boks side no doubt he wouldn't of played if habanna had) get over it, williams has always been over rated, people look at him and think everything he does is better than it is because he's not on a level playing field due to his lack of the game pal and see how many times he gets turned how everyone has their hand over the mouth when he gets tackled..........and if he had got the interception for Monye's try he WOULD of been caught...........get over it

  • Comment number 64.

    england2003- You really are a pratt

  • Comment number 65.

    England 2003 - Why do you think Martyn Williams needs to find a gym?

  • Comment number 66.

    get over what? He played. he scored two tries. The Lions won the game....

  • Comment number 67.

    Oh and by the way England 2003, O'Connell was behind Vickery in the first test, not AWJ. When Adam Jones came on the scrun shored up no end - and guess what, with the same second rows. Try watching the games and understand what goes on in the pack instead of criticising what you don't know.

  • Comment number 68.

    I would put at least 4 English wingers ahead of Monye never mind the likes of Shane Williams, Tommy Bowe, Tom and Max Evans etc etc.

    Conclusion -Shane Williams try record speaks for itself that's why he got player of the year so I guess everyone in the world is wrong and u r right..typical English wum attitude.

  • Comment number 69.

    what a fantastic way to end a fantastic tour!!

    though, apologies before-hand, im going to add my english support to Ugo Monye: who was roundly criticised for scoring 'easy run-in tries' and defending passionately (if not always effectively) in the warm up games by welsh fans, yet those same welsh fans are here praising little Shane for doing exactly the same thing yesterday...sorry guys but double standards? i agree that on raw talent Shane is so far ahead of every winger on tour (including my lion of the tour Tommy Bowe) that its scary, yet over the whole tour he didnt turn up: fact. he scored two fantastically taken tries yesterday AND mucked in (which i was critisised, by supergedwards i think, for saying he should do after his disappointing opening matches..."i told you so!?"), deserving full credit for a hugely reassuring performance yesterday, and as so remains one of my wing-idols (though im a fullback myself i have been seen on the occasional wing in my life :P) Monye also performed well yesterday, putting in the yards, helping with the hits and scoring a good breakaway try, so well done to him as well!

    gripe over. its been such an awesome tour with so many "what if's?" that could have made the difference between winning and losing and its kept us all (english, welsh, scottish and irish) on the edge of our seats for the whole thing. this bunch of lads only lost twice! (yes ok both in the crucial tests...) over the month, and i'd have taken that any day after the masacre that was 2005.

    proud of ALL of the 2009 lions, and eagerly anticipating the Aussie tour to come!! (spesh as half my family are over there...) and congratulations on a fantastic result today, which will, hopefully, stop this nonsense discussion of dumping the lions series!!

    British and Irish Lions forever!!

  • Comment number 70.

    Croftalicious I thought Monye was on a level par with Shane on the tour, I would not call not raving about Shane.

  • Comment number 71.

    nice one flytaff, putting your brain to good use- forget my log in name,
    I have been ctitical of england recently and certain players on tour....I have always believed s.williams was over rated, I guess as I compare him to a Mr J.Robinson...........why does Martyn Williams need a gym? he hasn't get the physicallity to cope with SH back rows, you saw yesterday at times he was thrown around like a rag doll, yes he does good work on the ground but that's not enough, he can't hit rucks and tackles well below his counterparts in the same position.....

    Willygilly1990........winning is everything, even POC said this after the game when justifying the Lions'lap of honour I quote 'winning earns respect' this tour isn't about becoming great friends and getting drunk it's about winning, your mentallity and others like it is perhaps why when it comes down to it away from home there is something lacking.....fortunateley we had MJ and the crew in 2003 and also a much worse side in 2007 that were a disallowed try away from winning ANOTHER world cup!

  • Comment number 72.

    Can I say I thought Monye deserved his 1st test berth and yesterday's try hadf me out of my seat also. And not only am I Welsh, but a Wasps fan to boot!

    (Oh yes, and Croft should have been named in the squad on day 1 and agree with your assessment of Mr williams)

    The previous posting comment by another that he was fast because he is small gives hope to the hundreds of jockeys who tire of the horse racing game.

  • Comment number 73.

    Chaps chaps please calm down. I was at the match yesterday with my 10-year-old son who is THE most enthusiastic Lions supporter on the planet. So what can I add to this blog? Well first the atmosphere was electric. Hats off to all the Lions supporters who paid a fortune to travel down here and support this smashing team. 2nd the Springbok supporters (the genuine article - i.e. not the daft twits who just like to come on these blogs as well as the local ones here in SA just to stir) were fabulous too. My son & I were sat amongst them cos we bought local tickets and we stood out like red sore thumbs in a sea of green. By midway through the 1st half these guys realised that their beloved Boks were in trouble and in a very good-natured and friendly way they told us so and began applauding our Lions skills in partucular the "silky handling, ferocious tackling, and insightful running lines" of our lads. After Shane Williams 2nd try the whole stadium was on its feet. Flutey's skills I only was able to watch close up of later on TV at 2am after I got back from the celebrations and after 12 Guinesses the try looked like it had been scored by demi-Gods. I read the local blog and surprise surprise it was all the refs fault, DeVilliers fault, "we won the series so there", etc etc. I had to make a few chirps to remind them that after all their boasting about hidings that they claimed they had and would be giving us, that their beloved World Champin Boks had just suffered a genuine hiding. 19 points was the winning margin (an earlier comment by a Welsh lad I think illustrates his mathematics isnt what it should be...) and thats a hiding in anyones book whereas 5 and 3 points definitely are not. Plus overall the Lions scored 7 tries to the Boks 5 and 74 points vs 63. Many comments here that SA fielded 10 changes etc but the public supported that team and they all said (including the local papers and blogs) that they were going to murder us. Plus they were happy with the ref being southern hemisphere so post match moaning is making them look silly. The announcer at the stadium made me laugh too by saying at the start "welcome to Fortress Springbok blah blah" and after the end of the game saying well done to the Springboks for winning the series 2-1. But I can tell you that yesterday FELT like the Lions had been victorious on this tour whereas the look on John Smits face and his tone and words after the match illustrated how hugely dissappointed and even crushed the Boks were. This also reflected in some of their blogging fans words and tones as they searched for excuses and seemed unable to take defeat like men. So there you have it. All in all a terrific day, a brilliant and memorable win, and a foggy night out. Finally a reminder to everyone that as someone said this is the Lions. Not England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland. However (and this is just to tease you all) Geech definitely got his selctions right this match with 6 (six yes SIX) Englishmen in the lineup which we all saw did all the damage during the 1st half. Ha ha!! Best regards to you all in Blighty, kindly take the Ashes and a Brit must please win the Open. I look forward to seeing some of the English guys out here over Christmas against the SA Proteas (SA has politics in cricket too but it makes for interesting reading and as long as it distracts them thats great) Regards, Rob

  • Comment number 74.

    england2003-Bs again

  • Comment number 75.

    tomo1978- it was wyn jones behind vickery, we had this argument on bryn's last article and someone posted you tube link........I suggest you get your facts straight....adam jones came on against the 'B' front row, and I believe it was Shaw who tightened up the scrum in second test along with the height of reese at hooker making the bind easier and adding more weight....comprendez-vous?

  • Comment number 76.

    Flytaff i agree, i wouldnt put Monye above Williams either, though conversely on this tour i wouldnt put Williams above two wings on tour: Bowe and Kearney, with Byrne at fullback. but since we were robbed of Byrne, Kearney went to fb and played awesome! so no complaints there, and we had to do something else, Monye, Fitzgerald and Williams all had chances to impress on tour, and at intervals they did, Shane just left it REAL late! :P

  • Comment number 77.

    i realise kearney is a fullback, as he keeps my fav player ever: geordan murphy out of the irish team! despite my poorly worded prior note!

  • Comment number 78.

    Monye did alright don't get me wrong, Shane has lost his form that is obvious and he was lucky to make the last test. But he did his job stayed with the man with the ball and scored..that's all that matters. This is not the first time his form has been a issue...he will bounce back. Monye the same he stayed with his man...scored. I still think Cueto or even Matt Banahan would of been better if we talk English players.

    English players I was impressed with, Simon Shaw and Croft.

  • Comment number 79.

    Oh yeah, one more thing to add. The fight showed that all the bully boy antics of the Boks fail to frighten professional rugby players. When will the Boks manage to understand and accept this and (hopefully) give up their silly bully tactics. On the TV early hours this morning I was amazed to hear the local commentators began blaming Mike Philipps. But to be fair to them after the reply they backed down and said he had actually not done anything wrong at all just got picked on by Steyn (who needs anger management) then Broussouw (over-rated shrimp who tries to act the big tough guy and will get smashed by Richie McCaw and his NZ pack as well as by the Aussie pack especially back row if he behaves like that) then that idiot Spies. While all these SA players deserve our fullest respect for their amazing skills and talents, sadly their childish behaviour detracts from that. There is so much of it that I have reached the conclusion (as has the local press) that it has to be a tactic of the Bok management. Sad.

  • Comment number 80.

    Croftalicious I would have called geordan murphy on tour if we would of had more matches remaining. I would rather his experience than Delon Armitage's raw talent.

  • Comment number 81.

    you and i are gonna get along flytaff :) and thanks for wording my opinions of monye and williams' respective try scoring moments better than i did!

  • Comment number 82.

    Croftalicious NP.

    To be honest my only disappointments regarding the tour apart from not winning the series are the players we lost to injury before the tour ever got going. I would of loved to have seen Tom Shanklin, Leigh Halfpenny, Thomas O'Leary, Ryan Jones & Jerry Flannery have a shot at the Boks. It was a shame we lost Ferris, E.Murray early too.

  • Comment number 83.

    I thought these Welsh players disappointed on the whole,

    Andy Powell & Shane Williams-Both are better than what they showed.

    Welsh players performances which surprised me-Matthew Rees with his line out throws.

  • Comment number 84.

    Despite not being able to watch the last match of the series, the highlights illustrated just how much class this, let's face it, scratch team has. From the Boks popping up in the first scrum to the try-saving tackle right at the death the boys fronted up in every position when it could have been very easy for them to have dropped their heads after last week's calamity.
    Leave the bad blood after the second test, or how close it all was, both team captains and coaches said how special this series has been and they're not wrong. Full on, full pelt and full throttle, fantastic stuff!
    I think it is amazing that a team made up of players from four nations can work so well together after so little preparation time. I think this is great testament to the players themselves and to the coaches (Geech especially). You can tell from the interviews that they all have so much respect for each other and do their best for each other, a valuable lesson to many of us I think.
    It was wonderful to see and hear the solidarity that both teams demonstrated towards Bakkies Botha and I think this has done something to bury the acrimony that was flying around last week. On that note after verbally bashing him last week I have much increased respect for John Smit for his post match comments. His final comments from that interview should be ringing in the ears of every rugby fan everywhere "If anything should be kept the Lions should be kept." Thanks SA and thank you Lions!

  • Comment number 85.

    I wasn't disappointed with Andy Powell. His game plan has been limited and he has been shown up at test level. It's up to him how he goes forward next, but I did not rate him enough to be in the squad.

    Shane has been incredibly muted since middle of 6N and on form was lucky to make the cut. I think the form of the Ospreys has affected most of the international players, with the exception of one - Tommy Bowe.

    I don't rate most welsh hookers, as although they do good work in the loose, they have not shown an ability to throw. It is why i was more disappointed with Lee Mears in Test 1. The Lions missed Flannery in that quarter.

  • Comment number 86.

    England2003 - you are the type of England Rugby supporter that the rest of the British Isles detests, and you probably enjoy that. You are letting the other real England supporters down by your deliberate ploy to stir up trouble. This is not about whether England are better than everyone else. It is about the Lions. It's a good job no-one with your mentality was on the tour !

  • Comment number 87.

    England2oo3 - comment accepted re AWJ. My apologies. However, as to Martyb Williams not having the bulk - one of the best opensides to play in the last decade was Neil Back. Was he a monster? No. Could he smash rucks? No. Was he brilliant at what he did? Yes. He scavenged and linked up between forwards and backs. Being big is not necessarily a good trait for an openside.

  • Comment number 88.

    I always have mixed feelings at the end of a Lions tour. On the one hand isn't it great admiring the skills of players from other nations that you would normally be dismissing. Also, the great players of your past are only truly immortalised by playing for the Lions.

    On the other hand those Lions playing for your club or country invariably come back either jaded or injured and you have to write-off the following year.

    This is why I was about to predict a poor 6N's for the Irish and a worse year for Wales, as they also have to contend with Messrs Gatland, Edwards and Howley tying to rejuvenate the side. They may decide that the World Cup is all important and use next year as a training run.

    However, the comments from England2003 remind me why it's so important for your nation to keep on winning - each year, every year. Thank you.

  • Comment number 89.

    LionstobeatSA- If you actually look past my username and take off the biased specs that YOU have on you'll find i'm not criticising or showing bias towards any particular nation......please read my posts (if you can of course) take off those tinted specs and tell me I don't have a point....fact is I don't believe certain players would have been in the squad (s.williams.a.powell) to name a few (would add j.worsley due to geech) if it wasn't for their 'special' peronal relationships with coach....ironically your having a pop (along with others) about my prejudice, when all you are seeing is 'england2003' and jumping to stupid assumptions.....yes i am a proud englishman and proud of the fact england won a world cup in 2003 and got to final in 2007, what's wrong with that?

    tomo1978- No apology for M. williams and Back there is/was a big difference in the build (somewhat like jason robinson and shane williams) back was pure muscle and very difficult to dislodge from rucks, he was incredibley powerful and was as broad as short...somewhat of a 'pocket rocket', his power also made him very good in one on one situations and he tackled well abbove his weight, somewhat like George smith who along with McCaw is best 7 in the world at the min, Neil Back worked incredibley hard on his physique and in the gym to make the most of what he had...... with M.williams I admit he has some very good attributes but for want of a better word his physique is somewhat 'doughey', I don't believe he has made the most of the opportunities he has had to become a bigger pressence and the work that he does so well on the ground can be 'un-done' by the fact he can be removed from the ruck with little effort.....I could make the same point for J.robinson vs s.williams as robinson again was a ball of solid muscle, fast over short and long distance and tackled well above his weight, shane williams is again hardly ripped to shreds as they say and become a liability when isolated

  • Comment number 90.

    Iolobear- another one who can't see past my username, your ignorance and prejudice is astounding...thank you sir

  • Comment number 91.

    England2003 - you're digging a bigger hole for yourself every time you write! Try and write something positive rather than be critical of top rugby players doing their very best on foreign soil against the World Champions. Martin Williams has been a credit to the game and one of the very best open sides of his type. Still a brilliant open side even at his age.
    Referees and some poor selection decisions cost the Lions a famous series win, and this will ultimately go down as a missed opportunity because the Lions were the better side. They only had a few weeks to mould together and in the circumstances did brilliantly.
    Just to add, if the selectors could pick their team for the 1st test again, I'm sure they'd have Shaw and Shane Williams in their side, would have had Flutey or Hook (if fit) on the bench, Rees or Ford at hooker, and there is a very good case for both Martin Williams and Worsley to start the match even though Croft did well.

  • Comment number 92.

    LionstobeatSA i also believe that Wallace played very well in both the tests he participated in, and, loathe though I am to admit agreeing with england2003, his extra bulk was necessary in the rucks as Croft, fast and strong though he is, was shown to be very lightweight attempting to clear and seel rucks when compared to the boks in test 1, although i thought he did better in test 2. to sum up: it would have been unfortunate for wallace to have been dropped totally from the test 22, though, of course, Williams played exceptionally well yesterday...

    heres a question: which back row would people now prefer? having seen the tests?

    1) Worsley, Williams, Heaslip
    2) Worsley, Wallace, Heaslip
    3) Croft, Williams, Heaslip
    4) Croft, Wallace, Heaslip

    i'd still just go for 4, ahead of 3...and yes im deliberately leaving powell out as i dont think he justified squad selection, let alone test 22. of course, its a shame that ferris and jones were sent home, as they would have given further interesting options in our back row.

  • Comment number 93.

    lionstobeatSA=ignorance is bliss...........we lost,ultimateley four nations out of the top 8 in the world couldn't beat 1, on the basis of the entire purpose of a tour it HAS to be down as failure, stop whining about referees and trying their best....if SA lose to New Zealand/AUS in the tri-nations they WILL BLAME THE PLAYERS NOT SALUTE THEM AS HERO's and the same will be said of the other tri-nations fact even the lions players and captain had the courage to say they why can't you??????????and I realy doubt your points about if the management team could pick a team again for the first test...I rather think if they could pick the squad again shane williams wouldn't be in it let alone the starting XV, and martyn williams isn't world class, neither is joe worsley or anyone else you mentioned, the ONLY world class lions players were O'driscoll, Roberts, Kearney, yes a few others played beyond their limitations but that doesn't make them world class, potentially heaslip, croft, monye,jenkins,sheridan,ferris,fitzgerald can make improvements and get to this cateogary but there is a real cazam between NH & SH rugby, also what's this rubbish about a 'scratch team' what's the real dif between a national team coming together from individual clubs? if anything the lions had longer together than a national team ever would!

  • Comment number 94.

    I thought I once bought a cazam from a bazaar in Jerusalem

  • Comment number 95.

    England 2003

    "it's about winning, your mentallity and others like it is perhaps why when it comes down to it away from home there is something lacking.....fortunateley we had MJ and the crew in 2003 and also a much worse side in 2007 that were a disallowed try away from winning ANOTHER world cup!"

    Your quote. You lost in 2007. Doesn't matter when in the tournament,or how. You didn't win, therefore you lost!

    You are entitled to your opinion and we all welcome it, but please don't try to say you're not biased (currently) when you clearly are. Everyone else is talking about a Lions tour, not the WC or England. Geech his team picked the squad they thought would do best. They are entitled to their opinion when selecting and they are ultimately suffering under the same problems as us. We all know what we think we can see and I doubt that there is one of us who would have made at least one change to the squad (Cussiter instead of Ellis or Blair would have been mine)!!

    I am proud of the team, think they were unlucky, and playing for the shirt and what it represents is what Lions Rugby is all about. I don't think they let us down and no amount of 20/20 hindsight and 'if we'd have selected so-and-so' will make the slightest bit of difference now. Certainly taking the England 2007 WC LOSING squad doesn't seem too bright an idea!

  • Comment number 96.

    England2003 - I've looked at your user profile that shows all the comments you've made in the past few days on all blogs. You really are quite sad.

  • Comment number 97.

    Feel like I did as a nine year old in 1970 when England in Mexico....who cares if we lost just really proud of the honest commitment, dignity and togetherness this wonderful and inspirational group of young men and those who led them have displated by the isn't always about the winning and in sad contrast all South Africa have done is prove that to be true.

  • Comment number 98.

    but they should never have brought Astle on!

  • Comment number 99.

    lionstobeatsa- maybe so but i'm not the one reading through people's profiles! have an opinion leave the personal insults from the safety of your pc.....anyone can do that and your realy going off the point of the article and debate

  • Comment number 100.

    I have got to say I think england2003 talks a lot of sense! I would like to say that I think the Welsh players are totally over rated but, have played well above their normal capabilities. For Example - Roberts is a one horse pony and only runs in to other players, lucky to offload at times, Phillips has exceptionally slow distribution, Shane Williams has been a liability all tour and Byrne is not half the player Kearney is. On the Plus side - Adam Jones suprised me with his scrummaging ability, Rees fronted up and deserved his test place and Jenkins was the best prop on tour.

    Im sure I will get plenty of put downs about my comments but, I am entitled to my opinions!!!!!


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