'It's the cruelty of sport,' says Itoje after Lions defeat

British and Irish Lions' Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje during the Third Test match at the Cape Town Stadium

British and Irish Lions' Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje during the Third Test match at the Cape Town Stadium - Credit: Steve Haag/PA

Saracens' Maro Itoje congratulated the South Africa opposition after a painful defeat for the British and Irish Lions on Saturday in Cape Town, writes Ziad Chaudry.

Morne Steyn once again put the boot in against the Lions. In similar circumstances to his last-minute penalty kick in the second test in Pretoria in 2009, the 37-year-old fly-half sealed a tightly contested 19-16 victory for the hosts.

Player of the series Itoje, 26, played the whole 80 minutes while his Sarries colleague Mako Vunipola came on during the second half. Elliot Daly was left on the bench.

Scarlets Welsh hooker Ken Owens scored the Lions' only try, while the rest of the points came from the kicking books of Racing 92’s Scotland regular Finn Russell.

“First and foremost, of all congratulations to the Springboks for winning the series,” an emotional Itoje told his former Sarries colleague Schalk Brits, who was part of the 2019 South Africa rugby world cup winning team. The 40-year-old, who played for the Hendon-based side between 2009 and 2018, was conducting post-match interviews for Channel 4.

“It’s the cruelty of sport this," he said. "We sacrificed a lot, we’ve spent a lot of time away from our loved ones and we’ve put a lot of effort in to it. At this level a few calls don’t go your way and you end up at the wrong side of the result," he said.

“The Lions is the pinnacle. I’m just incredibly disappointed that we couldn’t get the win today but, you know, to represent the Lions is one of the honours of my life and I’m just gutted for the team, for our fans, our family, for the backroom staff who’ve put a lot of effect in this, and unfortunately we fell short – but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

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