x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Boks were affected

If the South African team were affected by the pre-match barbs over what was perceived to be their excessive physicality, it was later confirmed by John Smit.

If the South African team were affected by the pre-match barbs over what was perceived to be their excessive physicality, it was later confirmed by John Smit. The South Africa captain, hinted thus when he said their "minds weren't right". The Springboks were termed "cheats" and "rugby thugs" in various sections of the media following the ill-tempered second Test, which they won to clinch the series.

Two of their players were subsequently hit with suspensions. The Boks felt they had been victimised as a result of the outcry, in particular their banned forward Bakkies Botha, in support of whom they wore armbands. "Our minds weren't right of you look at the physical contest at the scrums and mauls, and full credit to [the British & Irish Lions]," said Smit. "They wanted to make sure they went home with one victory and they managed it."

The home side were noticeably bettered at the breakdown last night, in particular by the Lions back-rowers, Jamie Heaslip and Martyn Williams, and Smit blamed a lack of intensity. "It was a wonderful series and obviously it would have been great to create history, win 3-0 and get the whitewash," he added. "We are happy to have taken [the series] but a little disappointed we didn't rock up with the right intensity today."

Several Springboks, like fly-half Butch James, left to play overseas after their World Cup triumph in 2007. A similar exodus may take place following this series win. Smit said: "A lot of our guys have placed a huge amount of emphasis on setting this as a goal. To have achieved it is wonderful, something these guys will remember for the rest of their lives. "In 10 or 20 years time we will meet up again and talk about the great series of 2009."

pradley@thenational.ae