June 28, 2009
Posted on 06/28/2009
The dream is over
The Lions’ fans were again magnificent. The estimated 25,000 in the stadium more than held their own – and a special mention for the Zulu War uniform-clad group who greeted the Springboks off the team bus with a stirring version of Men of Harlech. Psychological warfare - great stuff.
The game itself was such a brutal encounter one journalist asked whether the modern game was too physical – an interesting question for the Lions to consider as they pick through the remains of their squad ahead of the final clash in Johannesburg.
There were some crunching tackles – none more so than that of Lions centre Brian O’Driscoll on Springboks replacement Danie Rossouw. The two staggered away like punch-drunk heavyweights with the towering Rossouw coming over all Bambi-like before hitting the deck. The warrior that O’Driscoll is, he refused to acknowledge the pain or the fact that he had been concussed and tried to carry on – but it was not long before he had to make way.
The Burger alleged gouging incident did not make for pretty viewing. It occurred under the noses of the media ranks and was greeted with widespread shock by journalists on both sides of the divide – partly because the Stormers flanker is not a dirty player. He walks a fine line like all good back row forwards but this was out of character. The citing commissioner has called him to explain his actions and it is likely he will be handed a heavy ban.
As I have said elsewhere on the site, it was a shame for such a thrilling game had to include such an unsavoury incident. With the first capacity crowd of the tour and a worldwide audience of millions it was perhaps even more of a shame to see the scrums reduced to uncontested with the game not even an hour old. When such a pivotal part of the game is reduced to a farce it must send alarm bells ringing at the International Rugby Board. Law changes allowing for extra front row replacements cannot be too quick in coming.
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers all but denied the alleged eye-gouging incident took place in his post-match press conference with his attitude drawing gasps and even laughter from some quarters. And he appeared to be getting himself into a corner before his skipper John Smit intervened and asked everyone to move on and leave it to the citing commissioner. Smit could perhaps see his coach hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons again.
The Lions management face a huge task to lift their players now as they bid to avoid the whitewash. It is all very well saying that the famous red jersey will be all the inspiration they will need but I fear it will need something extra.
Posted Michael Bruce on 06/29/2009
Great game of rugby. And while you can't condone thugery like eye gouging, it happens and no amount of bleating will change that. More importantly the boks did what the lions couldn't. They won both tight games. One of the Lions' biggest problems is that they were too concerned with hassling the ref at every breakdown and stupidly trying to out muscle the boks. Skill and thinking will serve them so much better. Also there is so much rubbish talked about how good O'Driscoll is. He is terrible. He made at least 5 tactical errors or handling errors in the 1st 30 mins. Top class players don't do that. He is a has been and the Lions have better talent than that. The only reason he bleated so much in NZ in 2005 was because he new deep down he was inferior to Tana so sought to attack him through the media once his tour was over. Had he played that series he would have been exposed as the faliure he is against quality opposition. Not too many big scalps in his scrap book.
Posted Mark on 06/30/2009
I find it interesting how O'Driscoll's god-like status in the northern hemisphere has insured that he goes unpunished for acts of foul play. His challenge on Rossouw was marginal at best and his challenge on Habana where he used a neck high swinging arm left his own prop with a broken cheek bone. If he was a Pacific Islander he would be banned for a couple of weeks for reckless challenges but because he is Ireland's only class player for the past two decades referees see him is untouchable. He had a negative impact on the 2nd Test by injuring his own prop which resulted in depowered scrums, an area of the game where the Lions were dominating.