'There was probably a little more niggle... it was personal for us'

Lood de Jager was superb as part of South Africa’s excellent bench.

Tempers flare in Cape Town.
Tempers flare in Cape Town.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IT TOOK JUST two minutes for things to flare up last Saturday, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.

Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones didn’t like Makazole Mapimpi’s actions on the ground in a tangle with Conor Murray and that’s where things kicked off, Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth quickly wading in to square up to the Welshman.

Referee Ben O’Keeffe warned that there would be yellow cards for anything else similar in the game but there was no defusing the situation. Sin-binnings did follow for a blatant trip and an illegal tackle in the air, but there were plenty more foul-tempered moments.

Allegations of biting, a knee to the throat, no-arms tackles, and more – it was ferocious and brutal stuff as the Springboks battled to keep the Test series alive and the Lions failed to finish it off.

“There was probably a little more niggle, it’s just the magnitude of the game,” said Springboks lock Lood de Jager. “It’s just what it is. They are playing for their countries, they are world-class players who are there for a reason.

“For us, it was personal as well. It was a massive game for them, if they won that game, they won the series. For us, it was even bigger. If we lost, we were done. The magnitude of the game contributed to that little bit of niggle.”

In the end, the Springboks battered the Lions into submission. Warren Gatland’s team were dominated in the second half and finished with a whimper as the South Africans hammered their scrum, lineout, maul, and breakdown.

The Springboks’ bench was integral, with de Jager making a major impact after replacing number eight Jasper Wiese in the 55th minute. Lock Franco Mostert shifted into the back row, restoring a strong lineout presence in that area after Pieter-Steph du Toit’s earlier departure, and Rassie Erasmus’ side never looked back.

The replacement front row of hooker Malcolm Marx and prop pair Vincent Koch and Trevor Nyakane – who switched over to loosehead impressively – were also very destructive as the Lions bench failed to have any say on the contest.

lood-de-jager De Jager was superb off the Springboks bench. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We were disappointed with what we brought as a bench in the first Test,” said de Jager of the South African Bomb Squad’s impression.

“A lack of game time, rustiness, but we won’t make any excuses. We disappointed ourselves, our coaches, and our country. We said we were going to make it personal. That fired us up as a bench as well.

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“Being part of this environment is a massive privilege and something you can never take for granted, so I was just really happy with the opportunity to get on the field. We worked really hard last week on our mental preparation and attitude around the set-piece.

“The six forwards on the bench had a plan to make an impact and sustain the energy the starting line-up had and even lift it if possible. It was satisfying for us to have an impact on the game.”

The home side now clearly have the stronger hand heading into this Saturday’s third Test decider, even if there are injury concerns over du Toit and Faf de Klerk.

With key leader Duane Vermeulen back in the squad, there is no doubt the Boks will be hyper-motivated to seal the series this weekend.

“Firstly, it’s about understanding what it’s all about,” said de Jager. “It’s about more than yourself, you’re representing a whole country out there.

“Another thing is keeping each other accountable and driving standards. Hopefully, we can carry that same energy into this weekend’s deciding Test match.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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