South Africa captain Siya Kolisi says next Saturday’s series decider against the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town is potentially more important than their Rugby World Cup final win over England two years ago.
The Springboks levelled the three-match series with a bruising, ill-tempered 27-9 second-test victory over the Lions on Saturday, an ugly contest which stretched over two hours with a large number of stoppages for contentious Television Match Official referrals.
A loss for the Boks would have meant a series defeat and that desperation from both sides, with the Lions hoping to complete the job, showed in a bitty display that at times threatened to boil over.
“It was the same pressure we felt at the World Cup, but now it is a bit more because this (a Lions series) only happens every 12 years,” Kolisi told reporters.
“It’s game on. We are going to go again. Nothing is different. We are just going to try and do what we did today even harder.
“Nothing will change for us. We’ve just got to do things better, and in the set-piece try and win more of our balls and get more dominance in the scrums. Work harder off the ball. And it’s all about who can control the kicking game.”
South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus had launched an offensive on the match officials following the 22-17 first test loss, and there were plenty of contentious decisions again, though this time they appeared to favour the Boks.
Not least was a potential red card for wing Cheslin Kolbe when he upended Lions scrumhalf Conor Murray in the air, but instead got away with a yellow.
Kolisi said the players had put the controversy around Erasmus’s statements to one side and focused only on what they could do on the field.
“As a team, we go back to what we know with the systems, the structures of the team, working on fixes. Every individual looks at what they need to do.
“That’s what we went to because you can’t control everything, but what we can apply on the field, that’s what we focused on.”
Kolisi had said he did not get the same “respect” as Lions counterpart Alun Wyn Jones in the first test from Australian referee Nic Berry, but praised New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe for his performance on Saturday.
“Today was better. I went to Ben before, it was great working with him. He came to me afterwards and said ‘Thank you’. (Assistant) Mathieu (Raynal) as well, the ref for next week.”