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British & Irish Lions rally in second half to win first Test against South Africa

The British Irish Lions being what they are – one boot in the present, another stuck in the past – there are historical reference points aplenty ahead of Saturday’s pivotal second Test with South Africa in Cape Town.

The Lions’ forwards coach Robin McBryde pulled out a doozie on Friday, citing a book he has been reading about the second Test in 1974 and the Springboks making multiple changes to a losing team.

McBryde was warning of South Africa’s ferocity when they are on the back foot, but the ‘74 Lions won that match 28-9, so the point appeared moot, unless a clear-cut victory is exactly what McBryde, his boss Warren Gatland, and the rest of the Lions are expecting this evening.

Others with shorter memories have been recalling the spectacularly brutal second Test in Pretoria in 2009 – think of Bakkies Botha dislocating Adam Jones’s shoulder with a headlong charge over a ruck, and an ambulance taking five Lions to hospital, and you get the basic picture.

British Irish Lions

One down, two to play. There were moments when the British & Irish Lions were swaying on the brink but, to their immense collective credit, they dug in to secure the most priceless of first Test victories. Not for 83 years have the Lions overturned a bigger half-time deficit against major southern hemisphere opposition and a first series win in South Africa this century is now a mere 80 minutes away.

Few could have foreseen the final outcome when South Africa trotted in 12-3 ahead at the interval with their so-called ‘Bomb Squad’ available to rumble on in the second half. Instead the Boks’ best-laid plans blew up in their faces as the Lions superior fitness and the home side’s recent shortage of match practice combined to turn the contest completely. Warren Gatland’s selection and modus operandi, not for the first time, proved spot on.

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