Right. First things first. The 2021 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa was mince. Oh, sure, plenty tries in the warm-up games, but when it came to the Tests, the play was mostly dire. Exciting if you like muscle fests, but bereft of flair with the kicking contest making you glad that people had not been able to attend in person.

I was once told as a youngster by a gnarled old coach “if the good Lord had meant us to kick the ball he would have made it round” and he added “the next person to kick the ball when he doesn’t have to can go next door and play football.”

The Lions and the Springboks kicked the ball way too much, and spoiled the series. So what to do about it?

In any professional sport, a price has to be paid for failure, and that’s why I cannot understand those who think that Warren Gatland should be retained as the head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the next tour to Australia in 2025. He has to declare now that he has no further interest in the job, or be told that his stint is over.

It might only have been by a losing margin of one lousy penalty in the deciding game, and even that award was disputable, but the fact is that the Lions lost the Test series 2-1 and that is all that matters – to the history books, to the Lions themselves, to the coaches and above all to the Lions’ fans.

For any team sport, victory brings kudos to the management while defeat rightly gets you pilloried. I think Gatland’s past glories – the series win in Australia in 2013 and the drawn series in New Zealand four years ago which I considered to be as good as a win – have saved him from much more searching and scathing criticism this time around. Undoubtedly the Lions had some bad luck before and during the tour and were missing injured key men such as George North and Justin Tipuric but in the Test series Gatland made crucial selection and tactical errors that I believe cost the Lions the series.

On your behalf, dear readers, I watched several replays of the first two Tests and that is why I went for a final Lions’ win in last week’s column. I presumed that Gatland would realise that playing the Springboks at their own game would only work once and that he would then vary the team and change the playing style for the Third Test. Got that wrong.

The Boks certainly learned from the mistakes they made in the First Test and while not varying their playbook that much, in the second Test they tightened up their discipline in particular and simply made fewer costly errors while kicking the Lions backwards. They kept that mindset into the Third Test and were never going to change their style, even with Faf de Klerk out, so Gatland should have taken the risk of playing Finn Russell from the start to encourage the kind of faster, dynamic play that the Scot brought onto the field when he replaced Dan Biggar – and have you ever seen a replacement change the complexion of a match the way Russell did on Saturday?

We’ll never know why Gatland was so risk averse, and it all leaves a big ‘what if’ to be answered. What if Russell had not been injured for most of the tour? What if he and Ali Price and Stuart Hogg had been able to mix it up as they do so often for Scotland? Instead, Hogg wasn’t even in the final 23 and that was a very poor choice by Gatland. For while he had average matches by his standard in the first two Tests, Hogg is the one back in the squad that you could look to make yards and break through defences if – and he never got too many chances to do so – he had been brought into the play.

Checking the stats, it seems to me that the three Tests were won by superior defences on each occasion. The Lions in the first Test managed to match the South African forwards in the tight and defensively in the loose play while the opposite was true in the second Test – the Boks bossed it.

The mind games off the pitch were also lost by Gatland. Rassie Erasmus is a world-class coach as evidenced by his leading South Africa to the World Cup, but he is a galactico of the wind up, and clearly rattled Gatland. By the way, I hope World Rugby throws the book at Erasmus for his intimidation of the referees – a year out of the game would give him time to change his chavvy attitudes – but I suspect he’ll get a slap on the wrist.

We should say thanks for all you did Warren, now make way for a coach with attack in his DNA – Gregor Townsend.