The British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa ratcheted up a gear on Wednesday, when they took on a Springbok-laden South Africa 'A' side in Cape Town.
With 18 World Cup winners named in the 25-man squad for the hosts ahead of the match, the warm-up game became an unofficial fourth test, as South Africa remain in search of much-needed game time ahead of the official three-match test series.
After COVID-19 rocked the Springbok camp last las week, their scheduled match against Georgia was called off, and several players and management staff, including captain Siya Kolisi and head coach Jacques Nienaber, went into isolation.
This forced World Cup-winning head coach Rassie Erasmus, who is now Director of Rugby for South Africa, to step in as the head coach of the South Africa 'A' side, as well as numerous test starters lining up for the warm-up match.
The difference in opposition between the previous warm-up games and this one was clear from the opening minute for the Lions, as South Africa looked much less threatened by the tourists' attack.
It was the hosts that took the early lead with a penalty for offside through Morne Steyn, after Sbu Nkosi was tackled out of play while looking for a try out wide.
Nkosi would get his try a few minutes later, though, as Owen Farrell's chip kick in the South African 22m was charged down by Eben Etzebeth, before Damian de Allende regathered the loose ball to put Nkosi away for a 10-point lead to the hosts in the opening 15 minutes.
It took almost half an hour for the Lions to get their first points of the match, as Owen Farrell put the tourists on the board with a penalty, having crossed into the South African 22m four times previously.
South Africa responded in the form of another try after some World Cup deja vu from Cheslin Kolbe opened the gap for Lukhanyo Am to burst through and score untouched.
Steyn added the conversion, taking the hosts to a 14-point lead with less than 10 minutes left in the first half.
The Lions tested the South African defence for the remainder of the half, with the hosts' maintaining their line well for most of the game.
The tourists were buoyed by a yellow card to South Africa's Faf de Klerk, who spent the rest of the half in the bin for a shoulder charge on Josh Navidi.
The hosts were down to 13 men mere seconds later as Marco van Staden was shown yellow for cynical play on the five meter line.
The Lions could not capitalise on their two-man advantage, though, as they were kept out by the South African defence, eventually giving up a penalty for double movement which took them to half time.
The Lions came out in the second looking to maximise their numbers, spreading the ball wide, to exploit the overlap out wide.
While the South African defence stood up for a while, eventually Wyn Jones got the Lions' first try of the game through a pick and go penalty. Farrell made it a one-try game with the conversion, with five minutes left of the two yellow cards.
The test match feel was palpable in the middle stages of the second half, as the Lions piled on the pressure on South Africa, however the hosts were able to keep their line in defence.
With three minutes left of the match, both sides' defences were uncompromising, as neither side were giving away anything on the pitch.
It was the defensive systems that won out on the day, as South Africa 'A' managed to hold onto the lead for the remainder of the half, winning 17-13, thus handing the Lions their first defeat of the year.
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