Ed Elliot, PA
South Africa say they are happy to bore their way to a series victory over the British and Irish Lions.
The wily world champions were accused of deliberately sucking life out of last weekend’s gruelling second Test as they set up Saturday evening’s decisive clash in Cape Town with a tetchy 27-9 win.
Incessant stoppages and a host of flashpoints helped prolong that fragmented contest beyond the two-hour mark, while preventing the frustrated tourists from injecting any pace into proceedings.
Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick hit back at criticism of the hosts’ perceived tedious tactics but, with glory on the line, did not rule out a repeat as he shifted the focus on to French referee Mathieu Raynal.
“I am not too sure (what you mean) when you say we were slowing the game down,” he said.
“But once again, remember the person that is in charge of the whistle is the ref.
“When the ball is in play, I think all of our players they make sure that they give their best and I don’t recall one of our players doing anything intentional to slow the play down and people must understand the TMO (television match official) is part of the game.
“If it takes two minutes to make a decision, they need two minutes, unfortunately that is not in our control.
“If they (the Lions) want to lift the tempo up, that is their plan; if we want to slow the ball down and make it boring, we’ll do that – as other people are saying we’re playing boring rugby.
“But from our side, we don’t go into a game intentionally to say we want to slow things down.”
Referring to the niggly nature of the second Test, Stick continued: “If the British and Irish Lions want to play touch rugby, jeez that would be nice for us, so they are more than welcome to do so.
Final preparations. ✅#StrongerTogether #StrongerForever #CastleLionsSeries pic.twitter.com/59FpBf9OTg
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 6, 2021
“We’re not going to decide what they must do and also they are not going to tell us how to play the game. We will just play according to our strengths.”
South Africa have been restricted to limited Test action since their World Cup final victory over England in November 2019.
An outbreak of coronavirus in the camp further disrupted plans going into the current series, which began with a 22-17 loss to Warren Gatland’s men a fortnight ago.
With no prospect of facing the Lions again for at least another 12 years, Springboks captain Siya Kolisi has urged his team-mates to seize a rare chance of achieving a coveted feat.
“Mentally, I think we’re there,” said the flanker, who guided his country to the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan two years ago.
“I will never get this opportunity again, half of the team won’t get the opportunity again.
“We want to make sure that’s the mentality throughout the team and that’s the message this week. We’re in a unique position and we’re very excited for tomorrow.
“This is our final and it does give us confidence by the way we played last week. This one is what matters the most.”