Team of the Lions Series: Springbok dominance
OPINION: With a British & Irish Lions series that went down to the wire, the business of picking a composite team was always going to be a tough ask.
The panel of The RugbyPass Offload, which included Jamies Roberts, Ryan Wilson and guest Jean De Villiers debated a combined fifteen and it was weighted in favour of the Springboks, who were selected in nine of the fifteen available slots.
STEVEN KITSHOFF, LUKE COWAN-DICKIE, FRANS MALHERBE
Jean de Villiers: “I’ve gone with Kitshoff because of the stability he brought in the second and third Test, and he’s just a quality player. Hooker, I’ve gone with Cowan-Dickie. I’ve got Furlong too, because he started all three Test matches. I will mention Wyn Jones as well. The injury to him had a massive effect in the eventual result. If he was fit from game one, who knows what could have happened.
Ryan Wilson: “I’ve gone for Bongi Mbonambi. I just think he was brilliant. To keep a guy like Malcolm Marx out of the team, who’s outstanding. I’ve gone with a whole front row for South Africa.
Jamie Roberts: “Frans Malherbe, for his shape, he looks like he shouldn’t be anywhere near it, he’s unbelievable isn’t he? He’s so strong, awesome in the scrum and around the park as well. The way he moves, he just defies his shape.”
MARO ITOJE & EBEN ETZEBETH
Roberts: ‘I’ve gone with Itoje and Etzebeth.”
De Villiers: ‘They play the same position. They’re both number fours.”
Wilson: “Is there any difference?”
De Villiers: “Franco Mostert again. One of the unsung heroes of the South African team. The work rate of that guy, he just never stops. I’ve put him and Etzebeth.
Wilson: “I’ve got Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones. Itoje for obvious reasons. Alun Wyn Jones to come through what he did with the shoulder. I said ‘no way, he’s going to be a hindrance to the team’. He comes through that, plays through all the Tests. For an old bloke, he carried the ball. If you watch the first 20 minutes of the first Test, he carried the ball non-stop.”
SIYA KOLISI, JACK CONAN & TOM CURRY
Wilson: “I wish Duane Vermeulen was playing. I might just stick him in there anyway. No one really stood up at eight for the Lions. Conan played well but he didn’t do anything special. Curry, I’ve got in there but again, I would have liked to see Hamish Watson. The backrow is so hard. [Pieter] Steph du Toit got injured, Kolisi at times was brilliant and led well. And got a few crucial turnovers, but again, wasn’t outstanding.
De Villiers: “I’ve got Conan at No.8. He started all three Test matches. There was so much chopping and changing with the Boks. I thought Conan had a strong game in the second Test match in a losing game. I went with Kolisi at seven and I went with Lawes at six, as I thought he had a strong game in the first Test match, faded out in the second and third, but there was no one that much better in the Springboks’ set-up.
Roberts: “I’ve going Kolisi, Conan and Curry” which the panel agreed upon.
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SCRUMHALF – ALI PRICE
Roberts: “I’d go Ali Price at nine, over the Test series,” which the panel agreed on.
FLYHALF – HANDRE POLLARD
Roberts: ‘This is tough. He didn’t go well but I’d have to pick Pollard. He started all three Tests at 10 and they won the series. His control with the kicking game. Biggs and Russell played well in their own way in their own respective ways.
Wilson: “If we were picking a team to go out and beat the All Blacks, that’s what I’m going off. I’m going for Russell for that reason. I’ll leave it to you boys, you’re backs.
De Villiers: “I’ve also gone Pollard. He and Faf de Klerk controlled the game so well. Also the fact that he came off an ACL injury tear eight months ago and had covid a week before the first Test and then playing all three Test matches. I went Pollard at 10 with special mention to Finn Russell.
CENTRES: DAMIAN DE ALLENDE & LUKHANYO AM
Wilson: “Can I do 12 and 13? I’ve got them nailed down. De Allende and Lukhanyo Am. They were solid weren’t they.” The panel agreed.
BACK THREE: DUHAN VAN DER MERWE, CHESLIN KOLBE & WILLIE LE ROUX
Roberts: “Cheslin has to be in there. I thought Willie Le Roux was impressive. I thought he played really, really well. The other wing spot is open to debate.
De Villiers: “I’ve got an all South African back three. I’ve got Willie Le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe and Duhan van der Merwe.” [Panel laughs]
Christina Mahon: “I see what you did there.”
Roberts: “It’s Duhan or Mapimpi.”
De Villiers: “Duhan for me just because he may not be a traditional wing but he kept the defences busy. They really struggled to take him down.”
Roberts: “We didn’t see the best of him but his kick chase, work rate, he did really well, but we didn’t see the best of him carrying the ball, which we were used to seeing in the Six Nations and at club level as well but I thought the other facets of his game, to start all three Tests and to play as well as he did, yeah, I’d go Duhan as well.”