Warren Gatland has told his British and Irish Lions to get ready for a “cup final” after their 27-9 defeat by South Africa in the second Test set up a series decider next Saturday.
The Lions entered halftime at Cape Town Stadium 9-6 ahead on Saturday through three Dan Biggar penalties – but the match then turned on its head, with the world champions taking control up front and in the air to dominate the second period.
Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am crossed in the third quarter while the boot of Handre Pollard did the rest, setting up a winner-takes-all scenario in the climax to the tour.
“The players are very disappointed but next Saturday is a cup final. That’s how we’ve got to look at it and prepare,” head coach Gatland said.
“There are a few things we’ve got to tidy up. It’s 1-1 and South Africa put a huge amount of emotion into that game. We’ve got that chance next week to hopefully take the series.
“We were happy at halftime and in the second half just didn’t get into it. We got no momentum, no real opportunity to play. Nothing at all from our kick returns and that was disappointing.
The build-up had seen South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus release online an hour-long video critiquing the performance of the officials, headed by Australian referee Nic Berry, at Cape Town Stadium a week earlier.
The Springboks then doubled down on their claim of being disrespected by the officials and accused Gatland of “destroying the dignity of the series” after the Lions made it known that they felt Marius Jonker – a South African – should not have been TMO.
“I thought it (Erasmus’ video) was pretty interesting. I won’t be going on social media this week,” Gatland said.
“I don’t really want to comment on that because I want other people to take care of it. The last thing we need is a war of words and being accused of doing certain things.
“We’ll keep things to ourselves and keep to the proper channels.
“We’ve got systems and process in place. Hopefully, World Rugby looks at that to make sure everyone follows the protocols.
“We deal with the referees through World Rugby. That’s the process. I just hope it doesn’t get to the situation where we end up with things on Twitter and people airing their views in that way and not through the proper channels.
“I found it quite strange that that approach was taken. It’s definitely not something I’ll get involved with. It’s important that we keep up the integrity of the game as much as we can.”