Robbie Henshaw echoed British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland as he characterised their winner-takes-all third test against South Africa as a "final".

The Springboks avenged last weekend's opening Test defeat with a strong second half showing in Cape Town on Saturday as they ran out 27-9 winners.

Henshaw was part of an Irish quartet that started for the Lions, alongside Conor Murray, Tadhg Furlong and Jack Conan, but they ultimately fell to defeat, setting up a third Test decider next weekend.

The Leinster and Ireland centre expressed disappointment at the way in which the Lions were overhauled by their hosts in the second 40.

"Tough one to take. We felt we had a big edge on them in the first half and we were happy going in after that first half," he told RTÉ Sport.

"But they just managed to get on top of us in the second half and the momentum swung their way. They took their opportunities whereas a few opportunities came for us in that second half and we didn't really capitalise on them.

"So it's a tough one to take and I suppose the thing to look at is it's a final next week. It's 1-1 in the series and it's going to be a huge week for everyone in our camp and really looking forward to it then, so it's going to make it very interesting."

Henshaw and Kolisi (l) after the latter's try-saving tackle before the break

Henshaw came agonisingly close to scoring a try just before half-time when he collected a chipped Murray kick-through over the try-line and looked set to touch down, only for Springboks' captain Siya Kolisi to make a timely tackle.

The TMO and referee Ben O'Keeffe ruled that the ball had not been grounded, preventing the Lions from taking a more commanding lead into the break than the three they eventually did have after Dan Biggar subsequently converted a penalty.

"I thought I just had grounded it but these things happen in split seconds and the ref's made the decision and that's what they said," said Henshaw.

But the game was partially won and lost via the aerial battle as South Africa turned the game in their favour on that front as the match wore on, and Henshaw sees that aspect as well as the set-piece as areas where improvement is needed for him and his fellow tourists.

"Those small 50-50s didn't go our way, especially in the air. The aerial battle probably favoured them and they got their first try off that aerial contest in our '22 and they took their try well off it," he said.

"But again, we'll have to be better because they're going to come there next week at us, and the driving maul we'll have to look at as well and the scrum."

Follow South Africa v Lions third Test with our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app or listen to live commentary with Donal Lenihan and Michael Corcoran on RTÉ's 2fm from 4.45pm Saturday.