Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber insists that his side will grow stronger in the lead-up to the third and decisive Test against the British & Irish Lions next week.

South Africa beat the Lions 27-9 at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday to level the series. While they failed to assert themselves in the first half, they were dominant in the second and ended up outscoring the visitors by 21-0 during this period.

It was a big statement by a team that hasn’t played a lot of international rugby over the past two years. On Saturday, the Boks produced their best performance since the 2019 World Cup final.

“We haven’t had many opportunities due to the Covid-19 disruptions,” said Nienaber. “These past two weeks have probably provided us with our first extended chance to train and play together.

“We were better on Saturday, but we are not there yet. We are still building and looking for more continuity. I know that this group will stay humble and will get down to work."

The leadership group was criticised for its inability to problem-solve in the first Test. In the second match, captain Siya Kolisi and his lieutenants adapted to the situation to take control of the contest in the latter stages.

“We are fortunate to be working with leaders of this calibre,” said Nienaber. “Before the game, I watched how they went about things and noted the creative solutions they provided to the problems.

“I was thinking, they should get my win bonus – if there was a win bonus. At times I feel more like a facilitator than a coach, because they are providing the ideas.”

Earlier in the week, South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’ video analysis of the first Test – which highlighted the mistakes made by the officials in the first Test – was leaked to the media.

After the Boks won the second Test, Nienaber was asked whether the reaction to Erasmus’ scathing analysis had served as a distraction for the other coaches and players.

“Rassie had something on his heart, and it’s something we had discussed. But we saw that as off-field stuff. We as a team decided to focus on the rugby.”

Kolisi – who produced an influential performance overall and stopped Robbie Henshaw from scoring a try at the end of the first half – highlighted the attitude of the home side.

“We decided to look at the first Test as a positive, in that we had some game time under our belts. We felt more prepared for the second game.

“We focused on what we could control: the set piece, the kicking game, and the attitude. Nothing really changed in terms of our approach, we just executed better in the second match.

“This is only the beginning, though, we still have one more game to go,” Kolisi said.

The Boks may go into the decider without their star player Pieter-Steph du Toit. The 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year was forced to leave the field in the first half after sustaining a shoulder injury.

“He will undergo a proper assessment by the medical team over the next 48 hours,” said Nienaber. “We’ll have more information after that.”