The convincing win by South Africa, in which they outscored the Lions two tries to nil and improved vastly in their aerial game, means that next weekend’s third Test at the same venue will be the series decider.
Handré Pollard kicked with conviction and slotted five penalties and a conversion for a personal tally of 17 points.
The Bok dominated the second half and scored both their tries after the break, when they trailed the Lions by 9-6.
However, they gave the visitors very few opportunities this time around, as the Bok pack clearly won the power battles and found much happier outcomes in the marginal calls department than last week.
They also showed much more urgency with the ball in hand, but with very little possession to speak of, the Lions backs failed to respond.
The Bok pack will also look back at the trench warfare with great fondness. They showed more grit, muscle and tactical nous than their opponents, who conceded a rash of penalties in the tight phases.
The lead-up to the Test match proved feisty and the furious opening minutes, certainly delivered on that.
The Springboks were on the front foot early and showed a willingness to attack with their backs. Their first lineout drive was stopped, but they kept attacking and Pollard kicked the first points four minutes into the match, when the Lions went offside on defence.
The Boks had a good attack to the right, with Cheslin Kolbe being stopped meters from the line.
The Lions used their early possession to launch a number of high kicks and when Willie le Roux knocked the ball on from one of these high bombs, they had an attacking opportunity near the Bok line.
The used their forwards to start a couple of mauls and when South Africa were penalised for a defensive infringement, Dan Biggar opened the Lions’ account with his first penalty goal of the match.
There was clear intent in the Springboks’ attack, with the ball moved down the line a number of times, but with no real penetration. Kolbe looked dangerous in space, but credit to the Lions defence, who kept making tackles and not getting their line breached.
Biggar had a second kickable penalty in the 16th minute, and he again split the uprights to hand the Lions the lead for the first time in the match.
The Boks kept attacking from the next kick-off and the Lions could not resist putting hands in the ruck, but Pollard pulled his penalty attempt to the left.
The Springboks lost Pieter-Steph du Toit after 21 minutes, with the big flanker crying off with a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Kwagga Smith.
The Lions lost Duhan van der Merwe to the sin bin for a trip on Kolbe, who stayed down from the swinging leg by his direct opponent.
From the next play, Kolbe was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Connor Murray. A bit of pushing and shoving followed, but referee Ben O'Keeffe instructed the two captains to instil discipline in their squads.
The intensity was immense, and the hits reverberated in the empty stands as it became a clear war of attrition after 30 minutes of play. Two Bok lineouts were lost, but they seemed to have the upper hand in the scrums.
From such a scrum, the Boks attacked and a good kick by Le Roux resulted in a penalty to the Boks 40 meters out. Pollard kicked it to draw the scores level.
The Lions thought they had scored when Robbie Henshaw went over from a clever Murray chip kick, but the TMO could find no evidence of a grounding. Biggar added a penalty though as the Boks went offside in their red zone in that lead-up.
The second half promised much of the same.
An early scrum penalty gave the Boks go forward. They got their drive going from the lineout and from that point the Lions were in trouble. The ball was moved through multiple phases and a lovely foot pass by Pollard found Makazole Mapimpi, who scored a beauty.
The conversion went wide but the Boks’ lead was restored – 11-9 after 46 minutes.
That was almost reversed back by Biggar again, but his kick found the upright and the Boks could clear their half.
The next points also belonged to the Springboks as they started to pull away and give the Lions nothing. The hosts again managed a great maul and once they were on the front foot, the Lions were scampering.
Faf de Klerk attacked from the base of the that maul, pushed through a delightful grubber kick and Lukanyo Am scored on the hour mark.
Pollard added the conversion, and the Boks were 18-9 up. Innovation by the Bok backs gave them two tries, but the power and momentum came through the pack.
Pollard kicked his third penalty goals to take the lead to 21-9 from yet another driving maul penalty.
The pivot had to more chances near the end of the match. First the Lions were pinged against for a scrum collapse and then another when they went offside at a ruck. Pollard made not mistake, added six points to the Boks’ tally and rubbed salt in the wounds of the visitors, who were a well-beaten side at the final whistle.
Springboks 27 (6) – Tries: Makazole Mapimi, Lukhanyo Am. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Penalty goals: Pollard (5).
British & Irish Lions 9 (9) – Penalty goals: Dan Biggar (3).