Two Sides came to its emotional conclusion on 29 May, with a final episode that was slightly longer than the first two, given that it had to cover the final two Tests of the Lions series. I must say, I have really enjoyed the docuseries and the insight it has provided into the goings on behind the scenes of the tour – it's something that I think many of us will re-watch more than once.
Of course, last week’s episode ended with the leaking of Rassie’s infamous video, and it’s touched on again in the final installment, although not in any huge amount of detail. That’s not really surprising, given the disciplinary proceedings that followed, but safe to say, it’s clear that the South African camp is convinced that the leak came from outside, and Gatland and his Lions are convinced it was done by Rassie to put pressure on the ref. I’d imagine that’s probably still the general sentiment, even after Rassie’s interview with UK publication, Daily Mail, earlier this year. Personally, I think the only thing he's guilty of is being silly enough not to password protect the thing. But anyway. What’s done is done.
Once again, we are treated to lots of one-on-one interviews with players, as well as plenty of conversations with their families, and insights into team talks. There’s so much to unpack in this final episode, but the personal elements are always the most special. Hearing Jasper Wiese talk about playing for his sister, who passed away tragically, Bundee Aki’s parents’ dream of seeing their son play live, or Liam Williams’ crushing regret over a mistake in the second Test all just make you feel like you have a better understanding of the players and their motivation. And of course, there is a great juxtaposition between Alun Wyn Jones and Morné Steyn, both of whom played in the last series in South Africa in 2009 – we all know the role Morné had to play in both those series, breaking Alun’s heart not once, but twice.
Through the course of the episode, we relive the second and third Tests, which really had the series on a knife’s edge. That second Test also saw the easing of some lockdown restrictions, so people could finally watch games in pubs and restaurants, often with friends they hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic. It was a great reminder of how special the rugby community can be. I remember being ridiculously excited to finally get to watch a game at my local again, a place where the staff are unbelievable invested in my rugby-watching experience – and then it ended up being possibly the longest game of rugby I’ve ever watched because of all the stoppages in the first half. So long, in fact, that, given the restrictions that were still in place, the pub had to call last rounds and switch all the lights on while the game was still being played!
There’s always so much focus on Rassie (and I’m guilty of it too), but I think one of the other things that has struck me about Two Sides is that we’ve gotten to see so much more of Jacques Nienaber, and the quiet confidence with which he handles the team. It’s clear that he allowed Rassie to deal with the fall out of all the media drama during the tour, while he worked to keep the team focused and ready to deliver. And deliver they did. As Jacques said (and I'm probably paraphrasing slightly): "People say destiny is something that happens to you - f*ck that - I say the decisions you make can change your destiny." He can certainly be proud of his team for ignoring all the naysayers and making the decisions that would change their destiny, and the outcome of the series.
With everything that went on, and all that’s been said about this tour, let’s not forget that it almost didn’t happen. And that two special teams, and their coaching staff, and all the other behind the scenes personnel, made incredible personal sacrifices and did absolutely everything in their power to make sure that it did. That’s what Two Sides has really reminded us of, and I’m very grateful for that.
And, of course, it’s also reminded me (as if I could forget) that I absolutely can’t wait to see the Boks in action again. Roll on 2 July!
You can find all three episodes of Two Sides on DSTV Catch Up if you missed out.