Gatland expects more 'blunt force' from desperate Boks
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland believes a desperate Springbok team will come at his side with more “blunt force” in the hopes of keeping the series alive.
Gatland on Tuesday named a side – for the second Test in Cape Town this coming Saturday – that shows three changes from the side that secured a crucial 22-17 win in the series opener last week.
He realises the hosts will be determined to keep the series alive, but the ‘tweaks’ to his side will hopefully prevent a Bok revival.
Centre Chris Harris, scrumhalf Conor Murray and loosehead prop Mako Vunipola come into the starting XV in place of Elliot Daly, Ali Price and Rory Sutherland respectively.
“They [South Africa] will be desperate,” Gatland said, adding: “We have a chance to win the series.
“I’ve told the players we’ve got to be mentally right, because we don’t want them to use a get-out-of-jail card.
“We don’t want this to go into a third Test.
“We want to make the most of the opportunity we created by winning the first Test and hopefully sealing a series win on Saturday.”
It is the change in midfield, where Harris – who was not in the match 23 last Saturday – must counter the brute force with which he expects the Boks to play.
Gatland said he expects Harris to be “incredibly direct” against the Bok midfield.
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“We weren’t disappointed with the performance of Elliot [Daly].
“His workrate off the ball was excellent. It was difficult for him to get into any attacking shape.”
The B&I Lions coach said the Boks were “very direct” in the way they attack through inside centre Damian de Allende.
“I am expecting more of the same and a ferocious kicking battle as well,” Gatland added.
He said he expects the first 20 or 30 minutes to be tight again.
“The way South Africa tends to play, they try to build [a lead on] the scoreboard, get in front and hold on.
“That first 20 or 30 minutes are pretty important to us. The game might open up after that.”
Gatland revealed that they have plans to again nullify the Boks’ major strength – their forwards.
“Take that [forward superiority] away from them and they don’t really have a setpiece to launch from,” he said.
Flyhalf Dan Biggar is still going through his return to play protocols, after taking a knock to the head last week.
“He’s doing well but we’re going through the protocols,” said Gatland.