South Africa bullied their way to a 27-9 second Test win – this shows their set-piece brilliance
Analysed: South Africa’s set-piece dominance
The second half of Saturday’s second Test was ugly viewing for British & Irish Lions fans. The first 240 minutes of rugby in the Test series had seen the tourists largely keep South Africa’s vaunted set-piece under wraps. Then the wheels fell off the bus, or rather, the bomb squad blew them off.
Led by the introductions of Trevor Nyakane and Lood de Jager, South Africa would win the second half 21-0, securing a 28-9 triumph which levelled the Test series at 1-1.
Going into the decider, the Lions have to learn from their set-piece pulverising. This is what went wrong for them in the second Cape Town contest.
The first half: a recap
The Lions managed to actually enjoy the set-piece advantage in the first 40 – particularly in the lineout. They appeared untroubled on their own ball (drawing a penalty from Franco Mostert), and stole two Bongi Mbonambi throw-ins.
However, Mako Vunipola did concede a penalty in the 22nd minute for collapsing a scrum on the South African 22 – an omen of things to come.
The second half: South Africa’s set-piece dominance
41st minute, scrum to South Africa
Inside South Africa’s own half, the first effort results in a reset. Tadhg Furlong decides to move the scrum to a more stable patch of grass, only to slip, himself.
He concedes a penalty for collapsing the scrum and looks winded.
43rd minute, lineout to South Africa
From the resulting penalty, Handre Pollard kicks to touch. Mbonambi finds Eben Etzebeth in the middle of the lineout. The Lions nearly stop the maul, but a secondary drive means that South Africa gain around 20m in total. Six phases later, Mapimpi scores from a Pollard chip against a static Lions defence.
45th minute, scrum to the Lions
Jasper Wiese drops the restart, leading to a scrum on South Africa’s 22. On the first scrum both front rows pop up; on the second scrum, South Africa manage to wheel it.
The Lions win a free-kick after Ben O’Keeffe calls out Frans Malherbe’s stability, and Dan Biggar misses a kick at goal a few phases later.
52nd minute, lineout to the Lions
Luke Cowan-Dickie finds Itoje. Drama free.
55th minute, scrum to South Africa
South Africa comfortably win their own scrum – but Jasper Wiese fails to hear Faf de Klerk’s call for him to pick and flick. South Africa concede a free-kick for failing to use the ball. Biggar launches an up-and-under, which South Africa gather.
56th minute, lineout to the Lions
Willie le Roux clears. De Jager comes on for Jasper Wiese – a pivotal move which shores up the lineout. He shifts Mostert to blindside, and Kwagga Smith to No. 8. Cowan-Dickie’s short dump-off to Alun Wyn Jones is successful.
57th minute, lineout to South Africa
Malcolm Marx finds Etzebeth at the front. Lions don’t compete. This becomes a pattern.
58th minute, lineout to the Lions
De Jager, already into the action, correctly identifies Maro Itoje to be a dummy jumper and gets up in front of Jones at the back of the lineout. He snaffles substitute Ken Owens‘s first throw.
59th minute, scrum to the Lions
The Lions win a free-kick after Vincent Koch is penalised for instability. Lions launch an up-and-under, and Anthony Watson tackles Pollard in the air.
61st minute, lineout to South Africa
Nyakane comes on for Steven Kitshoff – another important moment. The irrepressible Nyakane is covering loosehead off the bench, after having started a tighthead the week before.
De Jager does well to take a high throw-in from Marx. The Springboks maul from the 22 to just short of the Lions’ five-metre line. Having gained advantage from a maul infringement, de Klerk pokes a grubber through and Lukhanyo Am scores.
64th minute, lineout to the Lions
Lions ball on halfway. Owens throws another short dump-off, but it’s dropped by Rory Sutherland, fresh onto the pitch. South Africa play out the advantage. Owens begins 0/2, and won’t throw another lineout.
66th minute, lineout to South Africa
Etzebeth takes the ball easily at the front of the lineout. The Lions don’t compete, but Sutherland gives away a silly penalty for coming into the maul from the side.
67th minute, lineout to South Africa
South Africa run an identical lineout, with the Lions not competing to concentrate on maul defence. They concede a penalty after flooding forward to stop the drive while Etzebeth was still in the air.
68th minute, lineout to South Africa
Three lineouts in three minutes, and South Africa run the same move again. The Lions prevent South Africa from mauling.
70th minute, scrum to South Africa
Kyle Sinckler buckles under pressure from Nyakane. Pollard kicks the penalty, while Nyakane provides the image of the Test, celebrating with his tongue out.
73rd minute, lineout to South Africa
Etzebeth rises at the front, and South Africa maul the Lions ten metres downfield. Watson drops the resulting up-and-under.
75th minute, scrum to South Africa
The Springboks get a whole pack drive on, and the Lions scrum disintegrates. Sutherland is penalised by O’Keeffe, but in reality there were about five offences. Pollard high-fives Nyakane, before knocking over another three to make it 24-9.
78th minute, lineout to South Africa
For one last time it’s Etzebeth at the front, but the Lions stop the maul. Two minutes later the Lions are caught offside, and Pollard slots the penalty as time goes red. 27-9 – dominance.
In the second half, the Lions conceded five penalties and two tries directly from set-piece. Mapimpi and Am’s scores both came after a long driving maul put the Lions defence onto the back foot, which was then exploited by a clever kick from Pollard.
However, the defensive issues which arose from South Africa’s set-piece dominance also caused major attacking problems, as the Lions were denied any sort of offensive base.
The Lions made only 105 metres with ball in hand, the lowest number by any Tier One side since Opta began recording the statistic in 2010. In the second half alone, South Africa made over half that (55 metres), using their driving maul alone.
In the first half, the Lions held 60% of possession. That number almost halved to only 36% in the second half – while they also suffered the same percentage of second half territory.
Amidst a ball in play time of only 14 minutes and one second, the Springboks controlled the second half with the precision and brutality of a commando unit. After the 64th minute, the Lions didn’t have the put-in at a single set-piece of their own. South Africa had eight in the same period.
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