South Africa A 17-13 British and Irish Lions: Springboks' World Cup stars punish Gatland's men

By Sports Desk July 14, 2021

The British and Irish Lions suffered their first defeat of their tour of South Africa, going down 17-13 to a Springboks 'A' side in Cape Town.

Like in Saturday's win over the Sharks, Warren Gatland's team were defensively vulnerable in the first half on Wednesday and were duly punished by a South Africa A team littered with 2019 Rugby World Cup winners.

Indeed, two of those world champions scored South Africa A's tries, with Sbu Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am going over.

Wyn Jones' score early in the second half brought the Lions back into it, but they were unable to stop a seven-match unbeaten streak – their longest such run since a trail of 10 wins across the 1989 and 1993 tours – coming to an end.

South Africa A started as they meant to go on in the first half – Nkosi seeing what seemed a certain try denied by Anthony Watson, though Morne Steyn, who converted the decisive points in the Lions' 2009 series against the Springboks, then nosed the home team ahead with a penalty.

Nkosi got his try in the 12th minute, however, with the wing bursting down the field to dive over in the corner after Eben Etzebeth charged down Owen Farrell's kick.

Steyn added the extras and, after Farrell had hit a three-pointer for the tourists, the 37-year-old was on point with the boot again in the 33rd minute, this time converting Am's try.

Yellow cards for Faf de Klerk and Marco van Staden reduced South Africa A to 13 men before the interval, and the Lions made their numerical advantage count when Wyn Jones barged over four minutes after the restart.

It was Jones' last act, with the Wales international taken off as a precaution – Gatland having already lost Liam Williams to a head injury in the first half.

Farrell hit another penalty to further reduce the deficit, though Louis Rees-Zammit saw a try disallowed by TMO and then Steyn's perfect record was dashed when he punted a long-range effort wide.

Steyn also squandered a drop-goal attempt late on, yet the Lions failed to make him pay as they were dealt a first setback of their 2021 tour.

STEYN BACK WITH A BANG AS LIONS SUFFER RARE CAPE TOWN DEFEAT

Though his kicking was off in the second half, Steyn was clinical in the opening 40 minutes. His Springboks debut came against the Lions back in 2009 as he played in all three Tests, scoring 19 points and not missing a single place kick (seven of seven) during the series.

This was the first time the Lions have played at Cape Town Stadium, which was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, although they will be back for the first Test. It was only their second defeat in the city from their past 11 appearances there – that previous loss having come back in 1980.

CAPTAIN'S RETURN A BOOST

The Lions laboured against the Sharks on Saturday and, against a Test-standard side this time around, their vulnerabilities were exposed again in the first half. Even though they missed only five tackles, their fewest in a match since also missing five against the Brumbies in 2013 – another game in which they lost – they were too often caught out by the pace of their opposition.

Gatland's team improved after the break, but the remarkable return of Alun Wyn Jones cannot come soon enough. International rugby's most-capped player will be on his way to South Africa on Thursday, with Ireland's Ronan Kelleher also flying out.

Jones will be in contention for the first Test on July 24, while Josh Adams – who has impressed on the tour so far – will likely return for the Stormers game on Saturday, after missing Wednesday's outing to watch the birth of his first child on a video call.

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    Robert Lewandowski's long goalscoring streak ended at 15 consecutive Bundesliga games – one short of Gerd Muller's record – but the champions moved three points clear of Wolfsburg.

    That is now 40 goals in their past eight matches for ruthless Bayern, who led 2-0 courtesy of great finishes from Muller and Kimmich at half-time.

    Benjamin Pavard was given his marching orders for a professional foul on Jeremy Dudziak early in the second half, but a Sebastian Griesbeck own goal extended their lead.

    Cedric Itten's header in the closing stages was too little, too late for bottom side Furth in the Bavarian derby at Sportpark Ronhof on Friday.

    Muller, who also scored the opener in recent victories over Barcelona and Hertha Berlin, is now on 218 goals for Bayern, one more than Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

    Neuer was delighted for his long-time team-mate, although he joked the forward could be summoned to a meeting with the former Bayern CEO after taking his place in the all-time list.

    "He doesn't get tired and has been around for a long time," Neuer said, as per Bayern's website.

    "I've accompanied him for long stretches of this time, and I'm always happy about every one of Thomas' goals and celebrations, which sometimes look a bit weird with him.

    "I'm especially happy for him personally, because we've been playing together for a long time, but I think he'll have to report to Kalle [Rummenigge] today."

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    "It's nitpicking really, but we can still play more flowing football. We're happy with how it's going, but we always have to take the next step and improve."

  • Solskjaer: Man Utd need to start 1-0 down! Solskjaer: Man Utd need to start 1-0 down!

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  • Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar

    "I am not a magician," said Carlo Ancelotti. "Just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities."

    The Real Madrid boss was talking about arguably the standout player from Los Blancos' strong start to the season – and, brilliant as he continues to be, it's not Karim Benzema.

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    Signed amid much fanfare from Flamengo three years ago, it has taken Vinicius time to fully find his feet in the Spanish capital. Patience is notoriously thin on the ground where Madrid are concerned, but fans have been more willing than usual to play the long game with the Brazil international, who has already played 88 times in Spain's top flight, a tally bettered by just six compatriots in the club's history.

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    After the first six matches of 2020-21, Vinicius had two goals and zero assists, with three chances created for team-mates. Granted, he had spent 52 fewer minutes on the pitch in those six games than he has this season, but he has undeniably made better use of the time given to him of late.

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    A strong indicator of Vinicius' form, his willingness to stand up in matches and why those Neymar comparisons are a little closer to the mark than they once were, is the upturn in his impact when running with the ball.

    After six games in LaLiga last term, he had completed only five of 17 attempted take-ons. That success rate of 29.4 per cent was the lowest of any Madrid player to complete at least one dribble.

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    This is a player embracing responsibility, demanding the ball, and dazzling when he gets it: in short, he's showing all the best qualities of Neymar, Mbappe or anyone else Madrid may wish to buy, and offering fans everything they hoped for when he first arrived for €46million in 2018.

    Perhaps competition is bringing the best out of Vinicius: with Gareth Bale back at the Santiago Bernabeu (although presently injured), Eden Hazard showing more encouraging signs and Marco Asensio fully fit again, there is no shortage of options for the Benzema support act. Or maybe Ancelotti really does have the magic touch to keep Vinicius in vibrant form for a whole season, beyond the fleeting glimpses displayed under Zinedine Zidane.

    Whatever the reason, Vinicius has never looked so dangerous in a Madrid shirt. Worryingly for his opponents, there could be plenty more to come.

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