Alun Wyn Jones admitted The British & Irish Lions didn’t help themselves in their second Test defeat but has vowed the tourists will put it right in the series decider.
The Lions were given a taste of their own medicine in the rematch, having staged a second-half comeback against the world champions to win the series opener 22-17.
South Africa were trailing 9-6 at the break at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday but scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to triumph 27-9 and level the series.
And while Jones conceded that the Lions were their own worst enemy in the second half, he believes the tourists will bounce back after asking themselves some tough questions.
Springboks overcome Lions to set up series decider
“There was an obvious momentum shift. We were second best in the aerial battle and they got momentum from getting to the corners,” said the Lions skipper.
“Their set piece turned up more this week and put us under pressure and there was probably too much momentum for us to shift it back.
“From the outside it probably felt like a backlash but from where I’m sitting, we probably didn’t help ourselves. Parts of the game that were prevalent and positive last week weren’t there.
“That was particularly the case in the second half. We are fortunate, we have another week. It’s the biggest week of the Tour now and the last chance to put it right.”
Three penalties from Dan Biggar to Handre Pollard’s two gave the Lions a narrow lead at the interval as they looked to secure a first series win on South African soil since 1997.
Tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am turned the game on its head, however, while three more penalties from Pollard ensured the Boks levelled the series.
For Jones, the areas for improvement were clear to see in the second half as the Lions struggled to wrestle back momentum after conceding the first South African try.
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“We had a bit of pressure early on and chased aerially too hard. We did well last week at stifling the maul on the deck and it’s something we need to look at,” said Jones.
“It was probably a by-product of the positive pressure we had early on in the game. We just need to stick to the plan. We were well aware of what they were going to improve on.
“They probably did to us what we wanted to do to them. They tried to do it last week, they just did it better [this week] and we saw more of it.
“From our lack of maintaining possession in key areas and giving away penalties, we gave them a roll on down the field. You can’t do that against any team, let alone the Springboks.”
The Lions will now have to do it the hard way if they want to secure only a third series win in South Africa since the beginning of the 20th century.
But Jones has seen enough in the eyes of his teammates in the post-game huddle to know that the men in red are more than capable of going again in the third and final Test.
“We got together after the game and we’ll stick together. It’s a squad effort,” he said.
“Gats is notorious for making changes and we’ll go again. There’s been a lot said about wounded Springboks but the Lions have taken a dent today and we need to put that right.
Pundits have their say after Lions defeated in second Test
“There was a lot of eye contact and you could feel the fact that everyone is well aware Gats will make changes and there will be opportunities for some.
“I could definitely feel that everyone wants to put it right. They are big weeks. People ask about comparisons to previous Tours but you can’t compare them.
“They are different weeks and different opposition. It will be interesting to see what Gats does with the team. Definitely, it’s going to be a big week.”