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Best Boks and B&I Lions – First Test

Maro Itoje stood tall as the British & Irish Lions fought back to claim a thrilling 22-17 win over the Springboks in the opening Test at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.

Springboks British Lions Best Players

Maro Itoje stood tall as the British & Irish Lions fought back to claim a thrilling 22-17 win over the Springboks in the opening Test at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

In a physically intense match of two halves, the world champions led 12-3 at the break before the tourists turned the tables to draw first blood in the three-Test series. In the spirit of the Olympic Games, these players grabbed gold, silver and bronze for their respective teams:

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The 2019 World Player of the Year wasn’t as clinical as he usually is, but he was his influential self. He made several dominant tackles – a memorable tandem hit with Eben Etzebeth on Itoje resulting in a turnover – and did exceptionally well to turn a sticky situation into a try when he mopped up a wayward pass by Handre Pollard and combined with Makazole Mapimpi for Faf de Klerk to dot down. The industrious back-rower made 13 tackles in all, bested only by Franco Mostert (15).

Faf de Klerk

His performance summed up that of the Springboks as a whole. A little general in the first half, he dictated terms with his left boot but surrendered control in the second half. The blonde-locked scrumhalf was failed by his forwards when it came to protection at the rucks and scored the men in Green and Gold’s only try.

Trevor Nyakane

Both he and Ox Nche came to the party as surprise starters, the latter making some big carries. Having battled in the scrums in the South Africa ‘A’ games, the veteran reminded of his class by winning two statement penalties in the set-piece – in the ninth minute and right before half-time – and earned the Springboks three points with a textbook breakdown penalty in between those feats of strength. The popular tighthead prop also made three carries and all five of his tackles.

Maro Itoje

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The England lock was always going to be a key man in the series and he stood up in every aspect to lead the spirited comeback. He marched straight into and through the fire that is the Springboks’ feared physicality. Soft-spoken off the field, a roaring Lion on it.

A beast at the breakdown, he won a number of turnovers including a try-saving steal on his 5m line. Fortunate not to be caught with his knees on Siya Kolisi’s back as he did so? Absolutely, but British & Irish Lions fans would say it’s a case of fortune favouring the brave. A final massive play, stripping the ball as he tackled Rynhardt Elstadt, sealed the win and capped a colossal Man of the Match performance.

Courtney Lawes

The iron fist the tourists needed in terms of breaching the gain line. So strong and dynamic, he was an immense momentum-maker in an unbalanced back-row, which speaks volumes of the regular lock’s athleticism and gas tank. The English giant made more than one breakaway surge for a pack-high 33 metres, sustained that strike power against the big Springbok pack throughout and was a pillar of strength in the lineouts.

Ali Price

Rose to the challenge and the occasion outstandingly. I was among those who questioned his selection ahead of Conor Murray, stating his box-kicking wasn’t as tried-and-tested as the Irish veteran’s, but the Scottish scrumhalf didn’t put a foot wrong. The accuracy of his kicks put the Springboks – and Kwagga Smith in particular – under immense pressure, leading not only to turnovers but a turning of the tide.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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