Morne Steyn came off the bench to consign The British & Irish Lions to a 2-1 series defeat, kicking the Springboks to a dramatic 19-16 victory in the deciding Test.
Head coach Warren Gatland gives his thoughts on the defeat to the reigning world champions in Cape Town and the Tour to South Africa as a whole in his first-person column:
PROUD OF THE EFFORT
“I’m disappointed but I’m really proud of the effort that the boys put in. I thought we were bold and we went out there to be positive and play some rugby.
“We missed one or two chances and they had a few lucky bounces and scored a try against the run of play and a couple of 50/50 calls probably didn’t go our way.
“But it was a proper Test match, it was tough and it was physical and that’s what you want from a Lions series – it’s not going to be easy playing away from home against the world champions.
“It was a really tight contest and it could have gone either way but congratulations to South Africa. It was a bit of deja vu with Morne Steyn kicking the winning points.
“The penalty count was against us 15-12 and at this level it’s so, so important. Your aim is to keep your penalties under 10 in international rugby as that makes a significant difference.
“You get one or two chances at this level and you’ve got to make the most of them, you’ve got to be clinical when they come around. Finn Russell was good when he came on
“We talked about moving the ball and the ball went through his hands a lot which was good. We shortened them up on a couple of occasions when we went to fourth or fifth phase.
“He just showed how quick he can get the ball through his hands and created some stuff. For someone who hasn’t played a lot of rugby, I thought he was excellent.”
YOU ONLY GET ONE OR TWO CHANCES
“When you’re playing against South Africa, the world champions, you know it’s going to be a really tight contest and it’s going to be down to a bounce of a ball or a call.
“We’ve been held up over the line and penalised at a scrum which was a bit unlucky when you’re five metres out from their line and from that point of view there was some key moments.
“But it was always going to be like that, it was always going to be tight. The boys gave it 100 percent and from a coaching point of view you can’t ask for more than that.
“We spoke at half-time about starting really well after half-time as we’d had a good first half and that’s probably the most disappointing part of the game, the ten minutes after half-time.
“We just got pinned a little bit in our own half and it took us a while to start generating a bit more momentum. That’s rugby for you at the highest level, you get one or two chances.
“A mistake is really costly and even though the players have given everything, they’d probably look back individually and go ‘there was an error there’ or a penalty given away.
“That’s what you’re towards at the highest level, to eliminate some of those sorts of things but I can’t complain about our attitude or our approach – we went to the corner to build a lead.
“That would then put them under pressure and force them potentially to stop going to the air and open up the game a bit which then gives you chances if the game does loosen up.”
BRIGHT FUTURE FOR YOUNG LIONS
“It’s been a tough series but it’s been exciting. Those are the sort of things you want to be involved in and at 16-16 it reminded me of the World Cup semi final (Wales v South Africa).
“You had to stay in it and someone was going to get an opportunity towards the end of the game and unfortunately we’re the ones who have been penalised and conceded three points.
“You have to try and play territory and wait for a chance as you are going to get a moment in the last few minutes when it’s so tight and they were the team that got that.
“I’m incredibly proud of my involvement and have been very fortunate. I’m very passionate about the Lions. I hope the new players have learnt a lot from this Tour, not just from playing.
“But also from the players around them in terms of the top players in the squad, their professionalism and the way that they train and all the extras that they do.
“I think they would have benefitted from that. I think Marcus Smith is going to be a superstar in the game, I think he is incredibly talented – he has an incredible amount of talent.
“There are other players who haven’t been involved but their experience from this will hold them in really good stead for their international teams and in four years’ time.”
“A really good example is Robbie Henshaw, who I thought was excellent. He probably learnt from the experience four years’ ago and then brought him on, improved him as a player.”