Warren Gatland says the British and Irish Lions can have no excuses following their 27-9 defeat by South Africa in the second Test.

The Springboks levelled the series in Cape Town as they inflicted the Lions’ heaviest loss since going down 38-19 against New Zealand in 2005.

All was going well for Gatland’s side, who led 9-6 at half-time thanks to three penalties from Dan Biggar.

However, they were very much on the back foot after the break; failing to score a second-half point for the first time in a Test series since 1983.

Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am went over as the world champions took full control, while the boot of Handre Pollard put the icing on the cake.

And Gatland admitted his side struggled to maintain their momentum following a positive first half.

He told Sky Sports. "It was a very slow second half – very stop-start – and we just couldn’t get any momentum into that. 

"We didn't have an opportunity to put phases [together] and attack as much as we wanted to in that second half and keep the tempo up. They did a good job slowing it down. We probably gave away some soft penalties, so we need to address that.

"The aerial stuff; we just didn't get any return or scraps from that. They tended to get the benefit out of that. Their set-piece was pretty good, they scrummaged well. There are no excuses from our point of view with regard to that."

The defeat means each of Gatland’s three Test series as Lions head coach have gone to a decider.

Nevertheless, he has no doubt in his squad’s ability to recover from this setback.

"It’s not going to be tough; the players must quickly put their disappointment behind them," he added.

"These guys have worked and trained incredibly hard over the last seven weeks, so it's about making sure we don’t drop our heads; we've got to be really positive in terms of how we prepare this week.

"It's like a cup final, so we've got to get ourselves up for that. It's one-all so it's pretty exciting really."

Gatland's counterpart Jacques Nienaber was delighted by the way his players bounced back after last week's 22-17 defeat in the first Test.

And while he still thinks there is room for improvement ahead of the series finale, the head coach praised the determination of the Springboks.

"I thought that was a great response," he said. "The guys really worked hard. 

"There were a few things we had to rectify from last week and the plans that the players came up with worked well for us. 

"We thought we had opportunities last week and we didn't finish; we got to the try line three times but only got one try. Today, we had a couple of opportunities and we took them.

"I didn't think we were brilliant; I thought we had guts and grinded it out, but I think there were a lot of things that we can still improve on."