After the Springboks won a tense second Test 27-9 at Cape Town Stadium, the British and Irish Lions’ series with South Africa will go to a decider.
After a tense first half, the Lions took the lead because to Dan Biggar’s three penalties, which outscored Handre Pollard’s two, and a player from each team was sent to the sin bin.
At the start of the second half, a magnificent Makazole Mapimpi try gave the world champions a two-point advantage. Lukhanyo Am’s score clinched victory as the hosts continued to dominate.
After the Lions won the first Test 22-17, Pollard added three more penalties to further put them in their place.
Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, had made himself the center of attention earlier in the week by posting an unprecedented hour-long video monologue criticizing referee Nic Berry’s performance in the Lions’ opening win.
Erasmus’ actions also drew attention to Ben O’Keeffe, who was in charge of the second Test.
The New Zealander was put through his paces by two emotionally charged teams, with 40 minutes of first-half play time taking 62 minutes due to stoppages for officiating decisions.
Tensions erupted after just two minutes as Alun Wyn Jones and Eben Etzebeth locked eyes and players from both sides clashed around them.
Pollard and Biggar traded penalties before the Lions took a 6-3 lead thanks to an unexpected error by the South African 10.
The story then became as much about the players who were leaving the field as it was about those who were still there.
Pieter-Steph du Toit, the first 2019 world player of the year, was forced to withdraw due to a shoulder injury and was replaced by Kwagga Smith, a considerably less experienced player.
Duhan Van der Merwe was awarded a yellow card for his trip on Cheslin Kolbe, which gave the Lions an even larger blow.
But Kolbe arrived two minutes later after he threw Conor Murray in the air, causing players from both sides to collide and earning both captains a reprimand from O’Keeffe, who threatened more yellow cards if the behavior continued.
Pollard leveled the score with a 54-metre kick before the Lions had a try ruled out after Siya Kolisi held the ball up when Robbie Henshaw attempted to ground it after taking a chip ahead.
The visitors were brought back for an earlier penalty, and Biggar slotted his third to give the Lions a three-point lead at halftime.
British & Irish Lions: Hogg; A Watson, Harris, Henshaw, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Murray; Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Furlong, Itoje, AW Jones, Lawes, Curry, Conan.
Replacements: Owens, Sutherland, Sinckler, Beirne, Faletau, Price, Farrell, Daly.
South Africa: Le Roux; Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi, Du Toit, Wiese
Replacements: Marx, Nyakane, Koch, De Jager, Van Staden, Smith, H Jantjies, Willemse.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZ)