The British and Irish Lions team were upbeat today after an agonizing 26-21 loss against South Africa.

Late tries by Tom Croft and Mike Phillips brought the Lions within reach of victory after trailing by 19 points.

However, with just 12 minutes to go, it was a hill too steep for the Tourists.

However, coach Ian McGeechan says their second-half performance shows his team can still save the Test series in Pretoria on Saturday.

"We are delighted with the performance and it gives us a lot of encouragement," said McGeechan, somehow managing to forget that no Lions side has ever won a Test series in South Africa after losing the first Test.

"We gave ourselves a mountain to climb, but credit to the players and their attitude. If you look at the quality of rugby we were playing, some of it was outstanding."

The Lions went down in front of an estimated 25,000 supporters, many of whom have taken three weeks off to visit South Africa.

Lions captain Paul O'Connell said the referee had been too hard on them.

"The referee was saying Phil was constantly going in. Phil is a very experience prop, he has played at the top of the game," he said. "How he can be seen to be making mistakes in four or five scrums is beyond me."

Croft, who managed to equal a 35-year Lions record held by JJ Williams for most tries in a match against South Africa, said they would take their revenge on Saturday.

"We will put this right," said Croft. "It was simple things and small margins.''