Martyn Williams attributed the Lions’ victory to superior physicality at the tackle point and set-phase excellence.
In fact, the Lions were superb across all facets of play, but were aided by some ordinary stuff by the Springboks, who reverted to the brainless brand they attempted to sell as the future in 2008.
Impatience on attack, manifested by ball carriers isolated on numerous occasions, and fundamental errors cost them a chance of a whitewash. To overlook the Lions’ skill would be foolish, and it was their superiority at the breakdown, in particular, that played a massive role in their victory.
Williams led the charge in this regard, and his ability to slow or steal possession was central to his side’s success.
‘Dominance at the breakdown begins with dominance at the tackle point and the boys did brilliantly in that regard,’ he told keo.co.za.
‘It allowed us to determine the pace of the match on defence and when you do that against the Springboks you have a better chance of winning. It wasn’t me alone, it was a collective effort and I’m sure the coaching staff will be happy about that.’
Williams did, however, have some encouraging words for his counterpart, Heinrich Brussow.
‘He’ll go on to be one of the best openside flanks in the world. That’s if he’s not there already,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure if I got the better of him today, but if I did it’s a compliment because he is one helluva player.’
Williams did outplay Brussow on the day, and this benefited flyhalf Stephen Jones immensely as he was able to dictate play under little or no pressure.
‘We were able to recycle quickly and that gave us an edge on attack,’ Jones said. ‘That hasn’t always been the case in the series and I think we [the backline] gave a good account of ourselves today.
‘It’s taken us awhile to get to this point, too long evidently because we’ve lost the series, but it is pleasing to have finished playing something like we know we can.’
For scrumhalf Mike Phillips, it was a bittersweet victory.
‘Honestly, I’m happy about the win but I wish we were celebrating a series victory now, not celebrating a dead rubber win,’ he said.
‘It was hard to get up for this one. I wanted to leave on Monday already, but we had to lift ourselves and I think we did that.
‘It was devastating the way we lost last week and I think that sucked the life out of the boys. Credit to them that they were able to pick it up for one last time.’
By Ryan Vrede, at Ellis Park