The Lions, tired to the point of exhaustion, will still go home victors, of course, but their last-ditch claim to greatness faded in the thin mid- evening air of the high veldt. As for the Boks, they leave the series heavily stained rather than whitewashed. Not since 1891 has the South African side been totally cleaned out on home territory and it was a measure of the Lions' ultimately futile task yesterday that a state-of-the-art All Black outfit failed at the same hurdle a year ago.
Both sides took to the field in a significantly weakened state following last weekend's epic confrontation in Durban. The Boks had lost Andre Joubert, Mark Andrews and Ruben Kruger - three profoundly influential members of the 1995 World Cup-winning team - during the week while the Lions shed Alan Tait, Gregor Townsend and Keith Wood.
There was further disruption in the tourists' camp yesterday morning when Tim Rodber, a strong performer at No 8 in both of the previous Tests, cried off with stomach cramps. Lawrence Dallaglio shifted berth to the base of the scrum and Rob Wainwright filled the hole on the blind-side flank.
Sadly for the tourists, they allowed the disruption to extend to the pitch by shooting themselves in both collective feet early on. Jeremy Guscott made a sumptuous break in the opening minutes only to throw a wild pass in the vague direction of Neil Jenkins and see Russell Bennett hack the ball into the Lions danger zone. John Bentley's alert pick-up quelled the threat on that occasion but when Wainwright illegally foiled an Os du Randt drive three minutes later, Jannie de Beer eased his way into his Test career with a simple penalty.
The Free State stand-off added a second in the seventh minute when Guscott nailed Percy Montgomery with a full-on tackle in the Lions 22 but then tried to gild the lily by playing the ball on the floor. Then came the moment the Lions needed like the proverbial hole in the head: Johan Erasmus and du Randt opened up the fringe defence as though they were wielding some oversized can opener and Danie van Schalkwyk had only to pop a pass to Montgomery to give the Western Province centre his second try in as many Tests.
But with Dallaglio making a powerful fist of his unaccustomed role, Guscott looking full of thoroughbred intent and Bentley willing to take the wildest of gambles from deep, the Lions gradually edged their way back into the equation.
Jenkins slotted penalties on 19 and 24 minutes to pull the tourists to within a score and they might even have levelled it 10 minutes before the break when Tim Stimpson, operating out of position on the left wing for the injured Tony Underwood, clattered Snyman with the mother of all tackles, put his boot to the loose ball and slithered over the line, only to find that Wayne Erickson had called play back for a knock-on.
Still, the Lions were happy to settle for a third Jenkins penalty on 36 minutes - a magnificent long-range strike that took the invaluable Welshman past Gavin Hastings' records of 13 penalties and 39 points in a Lions Test series. The kick, awarded following a tag-match punch-up between Mark Regan and Jeremy Davidson in one corner and James Dalton and Krynauw Otto in the other, was all the more impressive for the crescendo of boos and whistles accompanying it.
Those whistles soon turned to howls of sheer delight as the second half got under way, however. As in the first period, the Lions were slow to get involved and were easily forced into mistakes. The first one was down to Dallaglio, whose misdirected pass allowed Montgomery to go desperately close to another try.
The second, ultimately fatal one, came from Matt Dawson, who allowed Joost van der Westhuizen to give him the slip from a right-sided ruck. The Springbok scrum-half then out-stripped Allan Bateman, who had just replaced the stricken Guscott, and left Jenkins flagging as he screamed over. De Beer added the sweetest of conversions and the Boks were 11 points ahead.
Dawson made full amends for his lax defence by bobbing and weaving across the South African line for his second try of the series in the 63rd minute - Dallaglio and Wainwright, working superbly in tandem, laid the foundations - but de Beer had already banged over another penalty by then. Briefly, though, the Lions summoned up new reserves in an attempt to stage one last trademark recovery as the clock ticked down.
But Rossouw effectively slammed the door shut nine minutes from time by hitting Henry Honiball's pass on the optimum angle and sending Snyman in at the left corner. The intelligent Western Province wing then went one better three minutes from time with a superb finish of his own.
How they lined up
South Africa: R Bennett (Border); A Snyman (Northern Transvaal), P Montgomery (Western Province), D van Schalkwyk (Northern Transvaal), P Rossouw (Western Province); J de Beer (Free Svate), J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); P du Randt (Free State), J Dalton (Gauteng), D Theron (Griqualand West), H Strydom (Gauteng), K Otto (Northern Transvaal), J Erasmus (Free State), G Teichmann (Natal, capt), A Venter (Free State). Replacements: H Honiball (Natal) for Montgomery, 51; A Garvey (Natal) for du Randt, 61; N Drotske (Free State) for Dalton, 66; J Swart (Western Province) for de Beer, 68; F van Heerden (Western Province) for Teichmann, 70; W Swanepoel (Free State) for van der Westhuizen, 79.
British Isles: N Jenkins (Pontypridd and Wales); J Bentley (Newcastle and England), J Guscott (Bath and England), S Gibbs (Swansea and Wales), T Underwood (Newcastle and England); M Catt (Bath and England), M Dawson (Northampton and England); T Smith (Watsonians and Scotland), M Regan (Bristol and England), P Wallace (Saracens and Ireland), M Johnson (Leicester and England, capt), J Davidson (London Irish and Ireland), R Wainwright (Watsonians and Scotland), L Dallaglio (Wasps and England), N Back (Leicester and England). Replacements: T Stimpson (Newcastle and England) for Underwood, 28; A Bateman (Richmond and Wales) for Guscott, h-t; A Healey (Leicester and England) for Dawson, 79.
Referee: W Erickson (Australia).Reuse content