Beaten Lions coach Warren Gatland rules out Rassie Erasmus-style video after second Test controversy

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Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus.
Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus.

The British and Irish Lions refused to blame three controversial decisions for their comprehensive defeat in the second Test against South Africa that will send the 2021 series to a final decider next Saturday.

The Springboks kicked Warren Gatland’s squad into submission in Cape Town at the end of a week that has been dominated by the verbal protestations by the South Africa director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, and his brutal criticism of the series officials.

Referee Ben O’Keeffe was subsequently placed under the microscope for a draining and physical contest on Friday, and inevitably three of his key decisions had a clear influence on the match, with the New Zealand official choosing to show South Africa wing Cheslin Kolbe a yellow card instead of a red for tackling Lions scrum-half Conor Murray in the air and then taking no action against Springbok scrum-half Faf De Klerk for what appeared a high tackle.

He also awarded a second try to the Boks despite a less than convincing touch down from centre Lukanyo Am, but by that point the result had already slipped from the Lions’ grasp despite them leading the contest at the break.

But Lions head coach Warren Gatland admitted that he had little to moan about regarding the tight decisions, and issued a tongue-in-cheek jibe towards Erasmus that any issue that arise from their analysis will be communicated by the usual methods, rather than any hour-long video reviews via social media.

“We'll have a look at it and if there's any issues we'll go through the right channels,” Gatland said afterwards.

“I won't be going through social media to express my views. We'll spend the next couple of days doing the review and catch up with the referees next week if there are any concerns.

“(But there is) nothing I can think of. The referees made calls and we'll just get some thoughts from him when we have a chat.”

Three Dan Biggar penalties gave the Lions a slender 9-6 half-time advantage as Handre Pollard could only successfully kick two from his three early efforts, but second-half tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Am 16 minutes apart turned the series on its head and into the Springboks’ favour. Pollard landed three further penalties to ensure the series returns to Cape Town next week with everything on the line after the Lions’ 22-17 victory last weekend in the opener.

“We've just said we're disappointed with that second half, well done to South Africa,” Gatland added. “We've got another game next week which is like a cup final. We just have to get ourselves up for that. They have put a lot of emotion into that game today. We've got an opportunity next week. It's 1-1, so pretty exciting really.

“The aerial stuff, we didn't get any return from any scraps. They tended to get the benefit out of that. Obviously the set-piece was pretty good, they scrummed pretty well."

Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones was in agreement with his head coach that their loss of control in the aerial battle as well as South African pack’s resurgence as key factors in the loss.

“Looking at ourselves and the aerial battle and in particular the set-piece probably got away from us, and a few crucial turnovers went to South Africa early on in that first half, and we saw those piggyback penalties that you can’t do at this level,” said Jones, who became the first player in the professional era to take part in a 10th Lions test.

“The feel of it in the set-piece was they got back a little bit what they didn’t have last week, but we’ll have a look. Ultimately we can't give away those penalties, territory and possession that easily in the second half.

“We spoke before the game that our focus was what happened on the field, and it still is. We’ll obviously go back and review where we lost our focus.

“In the immediacy after the game it's disappointing. We didn't want to take it to a third Test but we have and we’re fortunate we have another opportunity, but we have to be better next week.

“What I do know is Gats will make changes. No doubt about that. He’ll put pressure on the group and we are a group that’s together. We’ve got another week to get it right.”

South African captain Siya Kolisi spoke publicly earlier in the week of his feeling that he was not afforded the same respect by Australian referee Nic Berry last week as he gave to Jones, and the toll of events were plain to see on his face after the victory that keep their hopes of a second consecutive home series over the Lions alive.

“It's been a week,” said Kolisi. “I just said now, for me personally as a leader it's the toughest week I've had to face. The coaches made sure we focused. We know we made a lot of mistakes out there last week.

“(With Berry) that's nothing personal. I don't want to elaborate on it, because I want to talk to the person about it, and today was better. I've worked with Ben (O’Keefe) before and it was great working with him. He came to me afterwards and I said thank you.”

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