A 19-16 defeat in Cape Town in the decisive third Test saw the Lions suffer a 2-1 series defeat to South Africa. “We spoke beforehand about winning these Test matches being about big moments,” head coach Gatland told Sky Sports afterwards
Last Updated: 08/08/21 7:28am
Warren Gatland was left to rue crucial moments he felt went against the British and Irish Lions as they suffered a 19-16 defeat to South Africa in the decisive third Test.
The Lions led 10-6 at half-time through a try from Ken Owens and the kicking of replacement Finn Russell and could have been further ahead had they been able to capitalise on other chances they created.
Then after the break, a try for the Springboks from Cheslin Kolbe which survived a lengthy TMO review helped put the hosts in the ascendancy, while there were also penalties at the scrum in promising positions which went against the tourists.
Ultimately, it came down to veteran fly-half Morne Steyn coming off the bench to kick South Africa to victory in the closing stages, securing a 2-1 series win, and while Lions head coach Gatland was proud of his side’s efforts he could not help but look back on those missed opportunities.
“I’m disappointed, but really proud of the guys,” Gatland told Sky Sports. “We spoke beforehand about winning these Test matches being about big moments.
“We had a two-on-one when maybe Josh Adams should have scored and a couple of times we were held up across the line. I thought we were bold in terms of the tactics and what we wanted to do, and tried to play rugby.
“We had a couple of calls which didn’t go our way and bounces of the ball, particularly the try they scored, but I’m really proud of the effort. I can’t ask the guys more than the guys giving 100 per cent and they definitely did that.”
This year’s tour of South Africa marked Gatland’s third as Lions head coach and fourth overall, having been part of Sir Ian McGeechan’s staff as forwards coach during their last series against the Springboks 12 years ago.
It was the first time the entire tour was played behind closed doors though due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and that will be the New Zealander’s abiding memory of the past eight weeks.
“The lasting memory will be no crowds,” Gatland said. “You look back on really tense, tight, physical games and you just imagine what atmosphere the crowds would have bought to those games.
“They were tough, they were physical, and fingers crossed when the Lions play in Australia in four years’ time all those fans who missed out on travelling to South Africa will get the chance to travel.”
Emotional Jones rues missed Lions chances
Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones battled with his emotions after his side were beaten 19-16 by South Africa in the final Test, with the hosts clinching the series 2-1.
Gatland, who now returns to his role with Super Rugby side the Chiefs in his homeland, would not be drawn on whether he would like to lead the team again when they head to Australia in 2025.
He instead wanted to focus on the legacy of the likes of Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones, who at the age of 35 is likely to have pulled on the iconic red jersey for the last time.
“There have been some great Lions who have probably worn the jersey for the last time tonight,” Gatland said.
“Hopefully they enjoy themselves, reflect on that and pass the baton onto players who have got another four years.
“Let’s look forward to that and get excited about two things: The World Cup in a couple of years and then start looking forward to the Lions.”