Warren Gatland 'disappointed' but 'proud' of Lions after series defeat in South Africa
Warren Gatland spoke of his pride for his British and Irish Lions despite acknowledging they had allowed a series victory against South Africa to slip from their grasp.
Morne Steyn stepped off the bench to land a 79th-minute penalty as the Springboks clinched a 19-16 victory in the decisive final Test at Cape Town Stadium. It was a cruel blow after Steyn also kicked the series-clinching penalty in 2009.
Gatland's men led 10-6 at half-time but should have been further ahead after dominating the world champions, Liam Williams the chief culprit for neglecting an overlap that would have led to a certain try for Josh Adams.
Cheslin Kolbe produced a world-class finish to place South Africa in control but Finn Russell landed a 75th-minute penalty to level the score at 16-16.
"I'm disappointed obviously but I'm really proud of the effort the boys put in," head coach Gatland said.
"We went out there to be positive and play some rugby. We missed one or two chances and they got a lucky bounce to score a try against the run of play. A couple of 50/50 calls probably didn't go our way.
"When you're playing against the world champions, you know it's going to be a really tight contest with the bounce of a ball or a call deciding it.
"The boys gave it 100 per cent and from a coaching point of view, you can't ask for more than that.
"The players have given everything but they will probably look back individually and go, 'there was an error there' or feel that they've given a penalty away.
"It was a proper Test match, it was tough and physical and that's what you want with a Lions series.
"It was never going to be easy travelling away from home to play the world champions and they were really tight contests. We're disappointed but it could have gone any way. Congratulations to South Africa."
It was Gatland's first series defeat as a Lions coach but the Kiwi was non-committal over whether he would return to lead the 2025 tour to Australia.
"In terms of my involvement, there's a lot of water under the bridge in four years. A lot of things can happen in that time. I've loved my time with the Lions"
Captain Alun Wyn Jones, who was playing in a remarkable 12th straight Lions test match, did not want to be drawn on whether this would be his last time in the famous red jersey.
"This one in particular I had to work harder the second time to get out here," he said.
"I know a lot of these guys will be out here on the next one, so I look forward to watching them."
Six Wales players started the third and final test in Capetown, the largest Welsh contingent in the series so far.
Hooker Ken Owens made the most of the occasion, scoring a first half try to give the Lions the advantage.
But fly half Dan Biggar failed to recover from a knock, limping off after 11 minutes to be replaced by Scotland's Russell.