Lions Tour Awards: Best Player, Unsung Hero and Most Memorable Quote | British and Irish Lions

Most memorable rugby moment

To be frank, there weren’t many in the three test matches, so I’ll focus on the obvious. When Morné Steyn was named to the South African squad, you had to wonder, when he was selected on the bench you could see him coming and when he entered the pitch with two minutes remaining, there was a fate that 12 years after kicking the Springboks to victory over the Lions, he would do the exact same thing. Warren Gatland had the grace to laugh at the fate that had befallen him and Steyn’s second coming was a compelling narrative in a series that, at least on the pitch, didn’t provide too much. DG

Throwing long missed passes inside your 22 on a Lions test isn’t supposed to be the right thing to do. You don’t have to face the most effective rush defense in the world, either. Finn Russell, thankfully, is not limited by conventional wisdom: Would the outcome of the series have been any different if the Scottish opening half had been on the pitch longer? With the shimmering Marcus Smith, Russell deserves this award for reminding us all that large-scale rugby can always be fun. RK

Best touring game

After a number of one-sided warm-ups against inferior opposition and two turgid Test matches, the third test came to life, almost until the second when Finn Russell stepped onto the pitch. The Lions clearly approached Test Three with a bolder game plan, but it took Russell’s introduction to free them from the straitjacket. The Springboks, for their part, also had a little more intention of playing and if both teams got more and more conservative as time went on, the final was a shredder. DG

Looking back, the fluctuating SA ‘A’ match – essentially the Springboks in disguise – set the tone for the entire series. The Boks, disturbed by the Covid, had little choice but to let their main men run; after the unilateral provincial games how good it was to watch a real competition. The Lions lost 17-3 but rallied to lose just 17-13. Ten days later, warned, they won the first Test 22-17 in the same stadium. RK

Tour test

The Lions have been so numerous in the warm-ups and so few in the series that it’s hard to pick one that really stands out. Louis Rees-Zammit, late against the Stormers, came with a trademark swan from Marcus Smith, however, and completed a fine individual performance for the No 10 Harlequins. It gave a glimpse of the future – Smith will be No 10 in the majority of all of these teams for 2025 currently being built – and demonstrated what happens when talent has the platform to shine. The penny finally fell for the test team, just a little too late. DG

Few of the Test Series contestants but, again, the SA A game – aka ‘the Fourth Test’ – delivered. Eight minutes before halftime, a misjudged clearance from Elliot Daly found Cheslin Kolbe who assuredly slipped between Rees-Zammit and Chris Harris and fired his captain Lukanyo Am for a magnificent try, transformed by metronomist Steyn. No one realized then that Steyn was just warming up … RK

Best Lions Player

Honorable mentions for Robbie Henshaw and Courtney Lawes, both of whom exit the series with considerable credit, but Maro Itoje has proven to be the Lions totem pole throughout the Test series. In the first game he was the one who led the resistance against both an early attack and a late flurry from South Africa and in the third test he again offered some branded interventions. He came out second best in the second test, but looking at his overall performance in the series, maybe South African fans will now recognize his class. DG

Henshaw was everywhere, Tadhg Furlong was endlessly engaged, and Russell, in good shape again, sprinkled the aforementioned stardust on the series. The most prominent Lion, however, was Itoje in the second row. One minute he was hovering in the lineup, the next making a nuisance around the tackle zone or demanding more of those around him. It is a tribute to Itoje and his captain Alun Wyn Jones that the great influential men of South Africa have never had it easy. RK

Maro Itoje was the choice of Lions players Photograph: David Gibson / Fotosport / REX / Shutterstock

Best Springbok Player

Am led South Africa A to a victory over the Lions, then set the tone for the series by mumbling Elliot Daly in the opening minutes of the first test. Much more to his game than big shots though, he organized the defensive line superbly and scored the try that put South Africa out in the second test. Eben Etzebeth has been excellent at times – especially in the second test – and Damian de Allende showed no after-effects from his incident at home to fit in alongside Am with superb effect. But Am wins and begins to gain the worldwide recognition he deserves. DG

A three-way fight between the exceptional Am, the relentless De Allende and the constant Franco Mostert. Am and Mostert would both have been deserving winners, but De Allende qualifies this for his overall contribution. The Munster cross was one of the main reasons the Springboks only conceded two tries in three tests and were just as powerful whenever he had the ball. Considering the horrific home accident before the tour, it took some effort. RK

Unsung hero of the tour

Ronan Kelleher was called up to prep camp mainly to catch up with Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie still busy with their clubs. He was then held back for a week but was not counted for the game against Japan in Edinburgh. That was supposed to be the extent of his involvement, but as the South African side feared a wave of first-row Lions injuries could lead to unchallenged scrums, he was called in to join the squad. He was the only member of the tour who did not make an appearance, but there was no record of complaints for the Irish prostitute. This altruism continues the Lions concept. DG

Marius Jonker. The South African was placed in an unpleasant position when asked to step in as TMO following the removal of the original neutral appointee. Considering the number of calls being returned “upstairs”, he was almost as busy as the referees on the field. Will have been greatly relieved not to have to rule on the decisive penalty for the series. RK

Sustainable tour memory

One wonders what could have happened with the 30,000 supporters present. Cape Town is a beautiful city even in the dead of winter, but there was something disturbing about seeing it so empty sometimes. Covid-19 has been devastating as riots and looting erupted elsewhere in the country mid-turn and with unemployment so high you couldn’t help but wonder how far the economic benefit would have gone. a full-fledged tour and if it wasn’t. considered by those who refused to entertain delay the tour for a year, it is to their shame. DG

Anyone with the opportunity to do so should visit Robben Island. Nelson Mandela’s former cell is a stark reminder of the terrible injustices of the apartheid era, but it was the dazzling testimony of our guide, himself a former prisoner, that really resonated. “Here’s where we started a hunger strike” puts even the rugby tour most disrupted by Covid into perspective. RK

Best quotes)

“No, I’m not Jaco Johan, I’m Johan Erasmus. In fact, I’m Jaco Johan, he’s a big supporter of us. He’s been giving me some really good clips for a while now, stuff that I’ve used in the past. He’s a really big fan, a really funny guy and I really like what he does. Before things turned sour with an hour-long evisceration from referee Nic Berry, Rassie Erasmus stole the show with a bizarre but entertaining press conference in which he had to deny being behind a Twitter account as a way not so subtle about making decisions that it disagrees with in the public eye. The quote roughly sums up a weird-than-fiction second week of testing. DG

You watch it. Liam Williams, asked to name the best full-back in the world under a high ball. “We want to see a change in mindset from our players in terms of speeding up the game. We want to see less ‘ball out of play’ and more action. »Rassie Erasmus, rugby director of SA Rugby, February 25, 2021 RK

South African rugby director Rassie Erasmus speaks with captain Siya Kolisi.
South African rugby director Rassie Erasmus speaks with captain Siya Kolisi. Photograph: Ron Gaunt / Seconds Left / REX / Shutterstock

Biggest disappointment

Still obvious, but we have to hope that this is the last major international series played in an empty stadium. There are some perks to having no supporters – especially when you’re sitting so close to the Springboks coaches – and hearing a fiercely bloated Bundee Aki rally the Lions troops in the first half of the final test was a unique insight. But if the stadiums had been packed for all the matches on the tour, the warm-ups would have been much more lively and the testing to a whole new level. DG

The reluctance of many in South Africa to call Erasmus for his social media antics and waterboys. Everyone was in awe of how he led the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2019, but trampling on rugby’s values ​​of respect was not pretty. Sometimes the referees get it wrong and occasionally the main coaches get it wrong. RK

My wish for 2025 …

The Lions insisted that without the pandemic, the Springbok players would have played for their franchises and there wouldn’t have been so many one-sided beating. Warren Gatland and his coaches pointed out how little it helped their preparation, but to look at the fans, the tour really didn’t come to life until South Africa A named a test team apart from the name. The concern is that there will be similar issues in Australia four years from now, so it’s heartwarming to hear the Wallabies and Lions open to potential touring matches against the Pacific Island nations, which would suit all. parts. Because there is not much to be gained by beating the weakened sides by more than 50 points. DG

A Lions route with a refreshing twist. Gone are the days of routine second-line state opposition blunders. What about a test in Tokyo en route with Fiji or a Pacific Islander XV added to the fixture list, on the strict condition that a decent share of the tour’s profits go to the opposition and to their unions? Or a British & Irish Lioness tour, taking place in parallel with the men and possibly including a Test series against a XV from the rest of the world? It’s time to start thinking more imaginatively. RK


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