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South Africa 17-22 British & Irish Lions: first Test player ratings

·6 min read

South Africa

Willie le Roux One shaky moment in the first half but silkily composed in general, a delightful sidestep often ghosting him away from would-be tacklers. Mostly very dangerous. 6

Cheslin Kolbe Not one of his most eye-catching afternoons, but did produce a couple of lightning-fast carries. Crashed into contact with commitment. 6

Lukhanyo Am Immense hit on Daly early on set the first-half tone, although he was arguably fortunate after a token attempt to wrap his arms. A decent performance elsewhere. 6

Damian de Allende
A centre who smashes into contact with enthusiasm and always makes a yard or two over the gain line. A nightmare for opponents, and nearly grabbed a try. 7

Makazole Mapimpi
So nearly stole in for the decisive score in the final 10 minutes. Added his usual dynamism and physicality in attack and defence. 6

Handré Pollard
Dependable goal kicking in a tight, physical match, and good kicking from hand. A polished performance but, like many of his teammates, could not get on top after the break. 6

Faf de Klerk
Kept the hosts ticking with intelligent, speedy service and typically assured kicking from hand. A big-game player who relishes the battle, he got his try. 8

Ox Nché
Selected for mobility and dynamism with ball in hand and delivered with a high-octane display. Enjoyed some superiority at scrum time, too. 7

Bongi Mbonambi
Played a full part in an incredibly solid tone-setting front-row performance, and the hosts missed his presence after the break. 7

Trevor Nyakane

Effected a very handy turnover in the first half and also won a scrum penalty with his team under pressure. A very presentable effort after struggles earlier in the tour. 6

Eben Etzebeth
A fearsome turnover tackle on Maro Itoje summed up his combative, punishing contribution to the early Springboks rearguard but didn’t have the same impact in the second half. 6

Franco Mostert
Got through a ton of dirty work, hitting rucks all over the field,. An unfussy and unheralded presence whose absence was felt when he went off. 6

Siya Kolisi (capt)
Showed little sign of recent positive Covid-19 test and was not undercooked but did not finish strongly. Always dependable, he led from the front. 6

Pieter-Steph du Toit
Crushingly physical in contact, but so smart along with it. The leading member of a swarming South Africa defence although they tired in the second half. 7

Kwagga Smith
Duane Vermeulen was expected to be a huge loss in the back row but Smith was a more than capable deputy. Faded somewhat in the second half before going off. 6

South Africa’s Faf de Klerk tackles the Lions’ Dan Bigger.
South Africa’s Faf de Klerk tackles the Lions’ Dan Bigger. Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images

Replacements: Malcolm Marx (for Mbonambi 41) The Springboks rather fell apart after the break and Marx was part of the reason why 6; Steven Kitshoff (for Nché 41) The World Cup-winner was impressive in defence and, as always, immensely strong at scrum time 6; Frans Malherbe (for Nyakane 41) His introduction coincided with the Lions enjoying themselves far more than in the first half 6; Lood de Jager (for Mostert 62) Could not make an impact in a losing cause 6; Rynhardt Elstadt (for Smith 63) Failed to make much of an impact when Warren Gatland’s team were well on top 6; Herschel Jantjies (for De Klerk 73) n/a; Elton Jantjies (for Pollard 70) n/a; Damian Willemse (for Le Roux 66) Forced on to the back foot by the Lions 6

Related: British & Irish Lions rally in second half to win first Test against South Africa

British & Irish Lions

Stuart Hogg
Solid under the high ball and elusive in possession. Did his level best to get the Lions on the front foot and was always in the right place. 8

Anthony Watson
Another livewire performance by a wing who just keeps improving. Troubled the Boks with pace and footwork despite a relative lack of early service and territory. 8

Elliot Daly
Soaked up a juddering hit by Lukhanyo Am early on: rarely involved aside from conceding a first-half penalty and missing one from distance himself. 6

Robbie Henshaw
Like Daly, took a crunching hit in the early stages, before a brilliant surge infield was only thwarted by a Willie le Roux tackle. Pacy and direct. 7

Duhan van der Merwe
Another member of the back line who impressed despite a relative dearth of space and ball early on. Massive hit on Kwagga Smith after the break. 7

Dan Biggar
A poor penalty attempt before half-time felt significant, but the Welshman was unfazed. Recovered superbly to nail a fiendishly difficult pressure penalty to put the Lions ahead. 8

Ali Price
Picked on tour form, this was a considerable step up in class, he was unable to make the impact he would have liked. De Klerk the clear winner in No 9 duel. 6

Rory Sutherland
Gave away a significant scrum penalty before half-time, even if arguably unlucky to do so. Overall competed competently at scrums and in the loose. 6

Luke Cowan-Dickie
Started well with his lineout throwing but the radar seemed to malfunction after 20 minutes. A heartening Exeter-style try was a big plus, the set-piece wasn’t ideal. 6

Tadhg Furlong
Didn’t take a backward step in the scrum or in the loose around the park, covered tonnes of ground, got through loads of work with typical gusto. 8

Maro Itoje
Simply brilliant, especially first-half, with fire in his belly combined with the necessary ice-cool attitude up top. Destructive at the breakdown, a constant threat to Boks’ ball. 8

Alun Wyn Jones (capt)
Created the Lions’ first try with a brave carry combined with an attacking decision to kick for corner. Massive work-rate: his leadership turned the match. 7

Courtney Lawes
On his first Lions start, the second row’s physicality and experience was so important and he dominated at times. Justified his selection, and then some. 9

Tom Curry
Coughed up two early penalties, including a needless late hit on Faf de Klerk. Industrious as ever, even if indiscipline handed early momentum to Boks. 6

Jack Conan
Quiet early on but a strong surge on the half-hour sparked one of the Lions’ best attacks. Appeared to suffer at hands of muscular opposing back row initially, but grew into it. 7

Replacements: Ken Owens (for Cowan-Dickie 56) A key member of the Lions’ very own bomb squad. Helped Gatland’s men dominate in the final quarter 8; Mako Vunipola (for Sutherland 56) Certainly not a bad option to bring off the bench when the Lions were in the ascendancy. Brought the expected ballast in the scrum 8; Kyle Sinckler (for Furlong 67) Slotted in well along with all the other Lions replacements 7; Tadhg Beirne (for Lawes 72) n/a; Hamish Watson (for Curry 57) Fortunate not to concede a penalty and perhaps a yellow card for what looked a dangerous tackle but that summed up his physical approach 6; Conor Murray (for Price 62) Kept the side ticking over and provided continuity in the final quarter 7; Owen Farrell (for Daly 64) A world-class finisher to help close the game out against the faltering Boks – slotted a massive penalty 8; Liam Williams (for Van Der Merwe 70) n/a

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