Warren Gatland would be in favour of Saturday’s third Test decider between the British & Irish Lions and South Africa going to extra time in the event of a draw, thereby avoiding a second successive series ending in a stalemate.
It is understood the tour agreement states that the series will be tied if the third Test is a draw and Gatland is aware of that stipulation. A tie therefore remains the expected outcome but as has already been demonstrated, changes can be made at short notice, with a second match against the Sharks arranged and Cape Town selected as the venue for all three Tests at the 11th hour. Earlier in the tour Rassie Erasmus was also keen for the Lions to play against South Africa A twice – a proposal given short shrift by Gatland.
Four years ago Owen Farrell’s 77th-minute penalty ensured a 15-15 draw in the third Test against New Zealand, prompting scenes of confusion at full time with players on both sides uncertain of the precise protocols and whether extra time would ensue. The two captains, Kieran Read and Sam Warburton, were later pictured holding aloft the trophy together.
In the aftermath, the New Zealand head coach, Steve Hansen, described a series draw as “a bit like kissing your sister” while Warburton said he was “gutted”. There were even suggestions that the All Blacks’ match against the Barbarians at Twickenham the following November could act as an unofficial decider if the Lions players were available for the invitational side, though that never materialised.
The 1955 series in South Africa also ended in a tie and asked if he would like to see extra time if the scores are level after 80 minutes on Saturday, Gatland said: “Maybe that’s something that someone can talk about over the next few days, about whether we do potentially go to extra time if it is a draw. That’s not a bad idea.”
It is likely that the TV broadcasters would also like the idea, given both Tests so far have been short on excitement, if high on tension. Back in December, England edged out France in the Autumn Nations Cup final – a tournament that failed to capture the imagination until extra time at Twickenham. The Springboks, however, have pointed to the tour agreement, which strongly suggests a tie, thereby denying home audiences a potentially thrilling finish to what has been a turgid series.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Sharks, Marco Massoti, has come out in defence of Erasmus after World Rugby confirmed disciplinary proceedings against the South Africa director of rugby for misconduct following his video rant last week. Massoti wrote on social media: “I have a team of New York lawyers ready to take care of Rassie and SA Rugby. Let us put World Rugby on trial.”
Asked about his relationship with Erasmus, Gatland added: “I met him on a number of occasions and it’s always been very friendly. We’ve had a drink after matches and a chat. I went to their changing rooms after the World Cup semi-final [lost by his Wales side] and congratulated them on a tight game. I’ve spoken to him a few times on the phone. He’s obviously done what he’s done because he’s felt that would work for him. I don’t really want to get dragged into that.”