Sunday, 28 June 2009

Second Test is the hardest

One of the most physical games I've seen with five British Lions players hospitalised. They were unlucky to lose and probably deserved to draw or win. A brave performance, but even if it'd been a winning one, I can't see how they'd have overcome the physical attrition to win again next Saturday to take the series. Very disappointing.

It's striking how the Springboks constantly try to psychologically and physically overawe their opponents off the ball. Always looking to stand over a player, intimidating him, forcing him to stay down, trying to humiliate. But that just comes with the territory and unfortunately the Lions weren't wholly successful in resisting the Springbok expression of power. It underlines how the Lions of 1974 and 1997 were really something: great skills, yes, but also real mental and physical toughness.

Only three teams have ever won a series in South Africa: the All Blacks of 1996 along with the two Lions teams. It's easy to see why and I hope the press don't go on too much about the Lions failure this time. They're in good company including every All Black touring team bar the one.

Just like after the last tour to NZ in 2005 it will take some of these players a long time to recover. A Lions tour represents a career peak, as everyone points out. What's less reported is that the downward slope afterwards can be painful and protracted.


Stephen said...

It was quite a brutal match, Burger should have been red carded without a doubt. I was hoping the Lion's would do a "99" on them after that.

Gaw said...

Stephen, everyone seemed to be of the opinion that the 99 call belonged to the old days. But if the ref is going to ignore lots of off-the-ball incidents, what else are you to do? Burger should have walked. If he doesn't get a very long ban it'll be scandalous.

Sean said...

The Boks cheated.

When gouging and targeting players (adam jones) is regarded as cheating then the northern hemisphere will be able to win down south, this is the reason it is not regarded as cheating, the tri nations know this and will protect the current regime.

What is needed is the video ref to be retrospectively change decisions within games and one year bans for cheating.

Peter De Villiers should be cited as well and banned for bring the game into disrepute.

Gaw said...

You've got a good point, Sean. Not sure retrospective decision-making can work though. I think the solution is to ensure the ref and other officials do their job on the day.

Mind you, 'twas ever thus. Simon Barnes wrote a ridiculous and incoherent piece in The Times today saying the Lions tours were outdated (didn't explain why) and that violence would finish the game (blaming it on the arrival of professionalism).

What total cobblers! Saturday's game was dirty and needed stronger refereeing but rugby generally used to be a lot dirtier. Cameras and the intervention of touch judges are what's cleaned it up. But, getting back to your point, only if they (along with the ref) take responsibility. As Stephen was saying, there may still be scope for the 99!

Sean said...

I dont think we should bring ourselves down to their level, in the post match press conferences dont be civil, call them what they are "cheats", its a tag no one wants.

..but it looked like fun.