Bryan Habana on where Lions vs Springboks Test was won and lost; necessary changes, TMO decisions and more
Sky Sports Rugby speak to 124-cap former Springbok Bryan Habana to get his thoughts on where the first Boks vs British and Irish Lions Test was won and lost, the Springboks tactical changes needed, Lions standouts from victory, the big refereeing calls, Rassie Erasmus on Twitter, and more
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 27/07/21 2:59pm
Springbok legend Bryan Habana pens his third column during this British and Irish Lions tour, looking at South Africa's first Test defeat, necessary changes, Lions standouts, refereeing decisions and more...
Habana's pitch-side assessment of where the first Test was won and lost...
"It was a proper Test match and obviously being South African, a disappointing result.
"Everyone saw that it was certainly a game of two halves. From a South African perspective, the second half saw a lack of structure, more ill-discipline, and a lot more mistakes than a very positive first-half performance.
"I know there were a few 50/50 calls that didn't go our way, which as much as I think it would have aided our cause to go on and help us win that game, I do think to be outplayed 19-5 in that second half just shows the ascendency the Lions had in that second stanza.
"There were lessons learned on both sides of the field and to think that a couple of weeks ago: actually having a Test match didn't seem likely or even possible.
"It was really enjoyable to watch. There was a lot of excitement, and it was a massive step up in terms of physicality.
"But from an SA perspective, it was disappointing and I'm hoping the Springboks can bounce back in what is a short turnaround."
Habana on Springboks changes, both tactically speaking and in personnel, ahead of the second Test...
"Tactically, I just think the execution needs to improve.
"In the first half, we were able to tactically stay in the right areas of the field, didn't make as many mistakes and had far fewer penalties against us. But the second half was completely different.
"Game discipline is going to be incredibly key.
"Personnel-wise, I didn't see there being too many changes.
"The likes of a Siya Kolisi, whose fitness was in doubt, to come through the 80 minutes and perform incredibly well was a really encouraging sign.
"I think the front row that got substituted at half-time (Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane) did an impeccable job in the first 40, so you would have potentially kept them on the park a little longer.
"I really thought we laid a solid foundation at the set-piece with those guys on, and feel that 10 more minutes wouldn't have done any harm.
"Kitshoff, Marx and Malherbe are World Cup winners and brilliant, and if they had started it might have been the same story so it's tough being a coach and always has been.
"Knowing when to make those substitutions is never easy, but we lost a bit of that ascendency we had with the fresh legs coming on immediately at half-time.
"Kwagga Smith is a brilliant rugby player who had exceptional touches, but someone like Jasper Wiese - who is very similar to the Duane Vermeulen mould - will possibly give more ball-carrying ability and go-forward.
"I don't know how much you can change in a week. Jacques [Nienaber] wants to show confidence in the players that started last weekend.
"It's all about game discipline for me - which was really good from the Springboks in the first half, but lacking in the second which really cost them in the end."
Habana on the British and Irish Lions' standout performers in their first Test victory...
"Alun Wyn Jones stood out. Everyone was doubting that he could make 50 minutes, let alone last the whole game, and his ability to lead from the front was incredibly impressive.
"Stuart Hogg at the back in terms of getting kicked around quite a bit by the Springboks in the first half, showed great game-direction and also helped the likes of Duhan van der Merwe and Anthony Watson.
"The loose trio for the Lions were incredible, and between Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes, aptly supported by Jack Conan, they were all really good.
"And then the Lions reserves, like Owen Farrell, Conor Murray and Mako Vunipola, who made a massive difference, and Tadhg Beirne came on and did well also.
"Where potentially in 2019 our so-called 'Bomb squad' had a big impact off the bench, it was potentially the reverse this past weekend for the Lions, where their impact players seemed to offer a lot more than the South Africans."
Habana on all the talk surrounding referee Nic Berry and TMO Marius Jonker, and some of the key decisions in the Test...
"I think Warren Gatland was extremely smart in highlighting an issue he was obviously very frustrated about.
"And it, unfortunately, put Marius Jonker the TMO in a lose-lose situation in my opinion, because whatever he was going to do was going to be heavily scrutinised, either from a Lions perspective or SA Rugby perspective.
"I felt it needed to be made more clear that it wasn't an SA Rugby appointment, it was a World Rugby one, and I defended Marius in the build-up to the Test match last week.
"It's rugby, and if we're going to scrutinize every phase of play in rugby and play everything back in slow motion, I'm sure there will be a number of things that will be highlighted that go unseen in a game.
"It was unfortunate for South Africa, it is literally a game of inches.
"The De Allende try after a clear Kolbe knock on was disappointing but correct, but there was some inconsistency to be brutally honest.
"The Hamish Watson incident for me is a yellow card, and as Sam Warburton has said, in 2011 he got a red card for an incident which was really similar.
"There was a phase of advantage which was eight seconds for the Boks, but the Lions had one which was 22 seconds.
"Again, the refs are under a lot of pressure at the best of times, and it's much easier for us to be commentating from the side and saying how things should be done when you have time and television replays to look at.
"It was unlucky - those calls were as tight as they come. For the Willie le Roux non-try, if you're wearing a Springbok cap he was not offside, but if you're wearing a British and Irish Lions cap he was a mile offside.
"It really was moments, but that said, the Springboks did have opportunities and their lack of discipline in the second half, with a string of penalties which kept them under pressure in their own half, didn't make it easy.
"And they potentially had an opportunity in the last phase of play to try and hold onto the ball and win some form of momentum, but Maro Itoje, in a man of the match performance, stole that final ball, which was probably fitting for the Lions."
Habana on frustrations as a former back-three player that Boks wings Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi were barely involved in the game...
"We saw very little of those two guys, but we also saw very little of Duhan van der Merwe and Anthony Watson.
"That is, unfortunately, Test match rugby. I got very frustrated a number of times in my career, and it doesn't always go your way.
"You're chasing high balls, you're catching high balls, you're trying to get stuck in around the breakdown because the ball just isn't coming, and Saturday was just one of those games.
"Yes it is frustrating, but again, you look at the opposition and I'm not sure how many times Watson and Van der Merwe got the ball in open play either.
"It wasn't quite a Test match for the wingers. And I do think it was the Lions trying to ensure Kolbe and Mapimpi did not get the ball on the front foot, like we saw two weeks ago in the South Africa 'A' game when Kolbe beat Chris Harris on the outside.
"It was an attritional, physical combat, which you felt the Springboks won in the first half and the Lions evened it out in the second."
Habana on South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus' frequent Twitter use and the reactions to it...
"We're easy to judge in terms of things which are potentially uncommon to us as rugby fans.
"Gatland has a big hoorah in the media about a South African TMO and everyone finds that okay.
"Rassie voices his opinion where he can voice it, which is social media, and he's got a few thousand on his lips.
"I don't think it's a mental thing or mind games. Rassie is extremely astute in terms of his rugby knowledge and you don't want it to get dragged out into the public and look like a raucous.
"But if Gatland can potentially moan about a TMO, and then Rassie moans about that, is it not subjective opinion?
"Rassie felt Twitter was his platform that he needed to voice something on, and when he did it last week it was seen as a joke, but all of a sudden he does it this week and it's seen as cynical, which is difficult.
"I don't mind it. I think it adds entertainment to the game.
"How he does it and how it's interpreted depends on what colour lenses you're watching it from."
Habana's prediction for the Springboks vs Lions second Test, live on Sky Sports, this Saturday...
"I actually predicted a score of 24-17 last week, but it was in the wrong direction.
"Like I said before the series, and purely for the sake of the series, I'd love it to go 1-1 post this weekend and we then have everything to play for in the last week.
"I'd love the Springboks to be hurting a little bit from what happened last week and feel that they can take enough positives out of that first half and even bits of the second half to know they can match up to a team that has been playing quite a bit of rugby in comparison to the Springboks.
"Physically for the Boks, to end the game as well as they start it is going to be incredibly important.
"Discipline is going to play a massively deciding factor, and what we see in rugby these days is if you have the ball less and make more tackles, you probably win the game, like the Lions did last Saturday.
"I'm fully confident that the team can bounce back. Knowing the confidence within that side, knowing the team spirit and close bonds that have formed between the individuals, they'll be wanting to do everything in their abilities to level the series and have a chance to hopefully win it all the next week.
The British and Irish Lions make 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 changes for the second Test v South Africa on Saturday 🦁— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 27, 2021
"It's an exciting opportunity and in professional sport, you want to be at your best when you're tested and when everything is on the line. You want to stand up and be counted.
"I'm fully confident the Boks will stand up and be fully counted, and hoping that we see them win and take the series to a decider."