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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