All the talk had been that the Boks would be off the pace because they would not be match fit! The day prooved that it was in fact the Lions who were not prepared for the pace of the game and the physical capabilities of the Springboks. So one down and a mountain to climb but who dares wins!
Right from the off South Africa showed their intent as they pressured the Lions and as quickly as the 5th minute quick ball put skipper John Smit into space and a simple try was then converted by Ruan Pienaar, 7-0.
Follow this with penalty after penalty against the Lions much vaunted scrum and before they could recover they went in at half time 19-7 down, with just a 23 minute try by Tom Croft converted by Stephen Jones to offer a glimmer of hope.
The second half and the Lions needed to score first if they were going to have any chance, but it was the Boks who drove forward with powerful mauling and Heinrich Brussow crossed on 46 minutes and it was 26-7. At this stage Peter De Villiers made wholesale changes and suddemly the Lions found they could win ball and move it around. Thus from 26-7 down, the Lions rallied and a second try from Croft with 12 minutes left galvanised the tourists. Scrum-half Mike Phillips cut through the defence with five minutes remaining, Stephen Jones converting both to set up a grandstand finish. Time ran out as the Lions forced the pace but could not reach the line, so we had the final score of:
South Africa 26-21 Lions
Tries: Smit, Brussow Cons: Pienaar 2 Pens: Pienaar 3, Steyn
Tries: Croft 2, Phillips Cons: Jones 3
Man of the Match:Tendai Mtawarira
South Africa: Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Adi Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smith (capt) Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brussow, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Deon Carstens (for Smit, 65, Smit for Carstens, 77), Gurthro Steenkamp (for Mtawarira, 65) , Andries Bekker (for Botha, 57), Danie Rossouw (for Brussow, 52), Ricky Januarie (for Du Preez, 68), Morne Steyn (for Pienaar, blood 65, Pienaar for Jacobs, 74), Jaque Fourie (for De Villiers, 57)
Lions: Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Ugo Monye, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell, Tom Croft, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Matthew Rees (for Mears, 50), Adam Jones (for Vickery, 45), Donncha O’Callaghan (for Wyn Jones, 68) Martyn Williams (for Wallace, 66), Rob Kearney (for Byrne, 38)
Not used: Harry Ellis, Ronan O’Gara
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)