South Africa 27 Lions 9 – How the Lions players rated

John O’Sullivan runs the rule over Warren Gatland’s side after defeat in Cape Town

15 Stuart Hogg

The Lions were beaten decisively in the aerial battle and the fullback struggled at times in that facet of the game and might have also done a little better in trying to tackle Makazole Mapimpi ahead of his try. One or two neat bits of footwork but never got a decent pass in attack. Rating: 5

14 Anthony Watson

He beat more defenders (two) than any of his buddies in the backline and looked like he could cause South Africa problems if he got some decent ball in attack. He got none and was solid defensively. Rating: 6

13 Chris Harris

He got no opportunity in attack and made three tackles the highlight of which was his early thumping effort on Lukhanyo Am. Solid but that may not be enough, however unfair, to retain his place. Rating: 5

12 Robbie Henshaw

Another huge performance in terms of work ethic, classically illustrated in the fact that he made more tackles (11) than the threequarter line and fullback combined. He was unlucky not to cap the performance with a try. He got a few first touches in the air, one or two that went forward. Rating: 7


11 Duhan van der Merwe

He was arguably too fired up and was lucky to escape a card for his lift tackle on Pieter-Steph du Toit and then did get a yellow for a silly foot trip. He was at sea aerially too and had a 50 per cent tackle rate. Rating: 4

10 Dan Biggar

The fact that he passed the ball on just three occasions was initially a reflection of the game plan but he should have over-ridden the directions when things changed dramatically after the interval. He will be disappointed with the penalty miss and was replaced on 58 minutes. Rating: 6

9 Conor Murray

The game plan relied on the box-kick to try and dominate the Springboks in the air as they did in the second half of the first Test. His kicks were on the money, long or alternatively contestable. Was involved in two incidents that should have led to cards; red for Kolbe, yellow for De Klerk. Rating: 6

1 Mako Vunipola

Although he was adjudged to have conceded a couple of penalties in the scrum, harshly, his work ethic and rate were central to the Lions' first-half display. The Springboks enjoyed great currency in the absence of the Lions starting props late on. Rating: 6

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie

The lineout functioned smoothly with him at the helm and he carried and tackled with great energy, aggression and purpose and was one of the few Lions players to broach the standards expected in a fine performance. Rating: 7

3 Tadhg Furlong

Ben O'Keeffe's refereeing of the scrum saw him denied on a couple of occasions when he might have been rewarded with penalties. Powerful in the carry and worked hard on the other side of the ball. Rating: 6

4 Maro Itoje

He might have run out of a little steam towards the end of the match but that's because of his Trojan work in the first 60 minutes; lineout steals, tackles, breakdown work, he was one of his team's best performers. Rating: 7

5 Alun Wyn Jones

A huge tackle count, 14, three more than the next best defender in Henshaw, the Lions captain led by example in terms of application but his influence was minimal on the side of the ball and waned as the game went on. Rating: 6

6 Courtney Lawes

Excellent again in the first half, he was another who manfully worked to try and stem the 'Boklash' in the second half; eight carries, nine tackles but the physical toll eventually told. Rating: 6

7 Tom Curry

The flanker was given an opportunity to atone for last week's display that was undermined principally by ill discipline and responded superbly with an excellent all-round performance. Rating: 7

8 Jack Conan

The slow nature of the Lions' breakdown ball for the most part meant that he had to carry in heavy contact, something he managed reasonably well. A couple of decent runs and a healthy tackle count. Rating: 6


They couldn't stem the Springboks' momentum and in the case of the frontrow, the lineout and scrum disimproved but in truth none of the bench managed to make a compelling case to start next week. There will be changes but more than likely most of them will come from outside Saturday's matchday 23. Rating: 4


Warren Gatland was rightly credited for the manner in which the Lions recalibrated at half-time in the first Test to win out but this time it was the Springboks that won the battle of the coaching teams. The timing and nature of the changes they made, especially in the frontrow and Lood de Jager had a major impact on the outcome. Gatland is not afraid to make alterations as he has shown in the past and that courage to change not only personnel but tactics may define the outcome of the series next week. Rating: 5