I was sure the Lions had it in the bag but no rugby team can operate effectively when it loses four key players to injury: both props and both centres. And how can you win against a team whose manager sees nothing wrong with trying to physically blind your players, as Schalk Burger attempted to do to Luke Fitzgerald? He should have been handed a red card for that incident, and the citing official thought so too, but the referee for some reason couldn’t. Burger has been suspended for eight weeks and will take no further part in the series.
Five Lions players went to hospital after Saturday’s game. Gethin Jenkins has a fractured cheekbone and Adam Jones has a dislocated shoulder. Jamie Roberts has a strained wrist and Tommy Bowe has a strained elbow, though these are the sort of injuries that can easily be picked up in a tough match, and they’ll probably be all right in time for the third Test. Brian O’Driscoll will have to take responsibility for his own concussion after putting in a huge tackle on Roussow.
I don’t blame O Gara for losing the game, but he is going to attract most of the criticism, and this incident could even mark the end of his days as Ireland’s number 10. It’s unfair. He got hammered within minutes of coming on the field, and looked utterly confused for the rest of the game, with a very nasty cut above his eye. He had no business being on the pitch in that condition, but I suppose the team was in such disarray following the loss of so many vital players, there was nothing for it but try to hold on until the final whistle even though everyone was playing out of position.
He was responsible for the Boks’ try and he made the wrong decision in kicking a Garryowen, but I don’t think he was in full control of his faculties. O Gara isn’t the bad guy here. That honour has to go to Peter de Villiers who decided from the outset that his players would deliberately try to injure their opponents even at the cost of ending people’s playing careers, or taking away their eyesight.
It was a great game for about 65 minutes, and an utter shambles for the Lions in the end, partly due to a strong rally by the Springboks and partly due to dirty play, punching and gouging, and targetting individual players with a view to injuring them.
That isn’t sport.