With the game seemingly won midway through the second half, De Villiers took off John Smit, Tendai Mtawarira, Bakkies Botha, Heinrich Brussow, Jean de Villiers, Ruan Pienaar and Fourie du Preez, as he appeared to look ahead this Saturday's second rubber in Pretoria.
De Villiers' critics claim the raft of replacements was the main reason behind the Lions' stirring comeback as the tourists came so close to what would have been a humiliating defeat for the Springbok management.
Here's a quick overview of the stick de Villiers has had to face in the days following the Boks' first-Test triumph…
Mike Greenaway writing in the Sunday Tribune
"The Lions reminded you of the All Blacks in Rugby World Cup 2007, when they romped through feeble opposition in the Pool matches only to crack when they hit the Real Deal (France) in the quarter-finals.
"But just when it seemed that the Boks had sorted the southern hemisphere men out from the northern hemisphere boys, their coaching staff committed an extraordinary act of attempted suicide.
"In fact, had the Springboks ended up losing a match from a position of complete superiority 10 minutes into the second half , at 26-7, their fans would have been quite within their rights to erect medieval stocks and demand the Springbok coaching staff be surrendered for public punishment."
Simnikiwe Xabanisa writing in the South African Sunday Times
"In the broader picture of series' between these two great foes, this will go down as another in a long line of classics.
"But one has to ask what role the Springbok management played in making a game of a match a team as experienced as theirs should have shut out after 50 minutes. With the score at 26-7, inexplicable substitutions nearly handed the visitors the all-important initiative in the first match of the three-test series
"For the Lions, this was a frustrating game. They played well but conceded too many penalties and did not take their chances.
"The irony of the Lions scoring three tries to two, but losing the test, was delicious. But if the first game was anything to go by, this series is proving well worth the wait."
What price de Villiers being vilified once more if the Boks go on to lose Saturday's crucial second rubber in Pretoria?