Dressing room beers, jersey swaps and haircuts as Lions and Springboks set grudges aside
Josh Adams didn't need another reminder.
There was a moment, right at the end of a pulsating contest, when Finn Russell and Morné Steyn were right in each other's faces. The Springboks veteran and the Lions sub that proved the doubters wrong.
Russell had a superb game after coming on for the injured Dan Biggar after only 10 minutes. His kicks, from the tee and from hand, and his bravery and guile in attack gave the Lions a winning chance, but the Springboks scrum was the difference-maker.
Russell was cursing into the night sky after he knocked on a Springbok box-kick in the lead-up to what would be the match-winning penalty from Steyn. Still, he put such personal disappointment to one side to share a word and a hug with the victorious Steyn.
Morne & Finn 🇿🇦🦁pic.twitter.com/Pt5dUBXinX
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) August 8, 2021
All around the pitch, there were little moments like that. The Springboks celebrated heartily before many peeled off to commiserate and share some words with the defeated Lions.
Steven Kitshoff sought out Tadhg Furlong, Damian De Allende consoled Munster teammate Conor Murray and Handré Pollard went over to a distraught Liam Williams.
After a tour that over-spilled with nastiness and recriminations, on several occasions, it was a better ending, at least.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) August 8, 2021
Following the game, both sets of players were allowed to visit the respective dressing rooms and share a beer or two. Covid restrictions meant there would be no big post-match function, but having slogged it out on the field for three straight games, ending the series over a beer seemed appropriate.
Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones and winger Josh Adams were both called from the post-match fray to do media duties. Jones, in his fourth and [most likely] final Lions tour, brought some beers with him while Adams had nothing but praise for South African try-scorer Cheslin Kolbe.
"Yeah, he's brilliant," said Adams. "He's a fantastic player; fair play to him.
"The South African boys came in [to the Lions dressing room] and we all shared a beer. A few of the lads know each other from playing together previously, and currently as well.
"It was great to chat to them. I swapped jerseys with Cheslin back in 2018, in the autumn, so I have one of his shirts. As it was my first lions Test, I thought I'd keep hold of that shirt. It's a pretty special one."
Other players did trade match jerseys, though, while Hamish Watson used the end of the tour to get rid of the mullet he had been growing since the start of the year.
End of an era, as Watson wrote, but the end of the tour too.
For the Lions players, the end of a season that was 12 months for some and 13 for others. For the Springboks, on to The Rugby Championship, with Argentina up next. The rugby world keeps spinning.
LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY'S LIONS SERIES: EPISODE 9