South Africa v British and Irish Lions - Teams and Predictions
THE DECIDER: With the British and Irish Lions making a number of changes to their matchday squad for the third Test, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber knows that his team will have to adapt quickly if they are going to win the series.
The tourists went ahead in the series with a 22-17 win in the first Test before the Springboks drew level with a convincing 27-9 win in the second Test last weekend.
The Springboks produced a brutally effective defensive game in their win, but they might have to bring something more to the table after Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones hinted said his team will seek to vary their tactics on Saturday.
Gatland made six changes to his starting XV for the third Test. Some of the changes see Josh Adams make his Lions Test debut on the right wing with Liam Williams taking over from Stuart Hogg at fullback. Bundee Aki is included at inside centre to win his first Test cap, joining Robbie Henshaw who switches to 13.
Ali Price will wear the No.9, which suggests the Lions will try to speed up the game on Saturday.
“That is the wonderful thing that they [B&I Lions] have in terms of the squad they selected,” said Nienaber.
“They can outflank you; they can go through you and they can try and go over you and our challenge will be to adapt as quickly as possible.
“In the first Test match we struggled to adapt in the second half when they changed the way they attacked us, and I thought in the second Test we handled that a little bit better.
“In a Test match you can do all the planning as much as you want, but there will always be challenges that arise in a Test match and we must find solutions for that and nothing will change in terms of that.
“It’s a do or die for both teams. It’s a final and it’s going to be massive.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 5, 2021
B&I Lions head coach Warren Gatland suggested the Springboks might be emotionally drained of that second Test, but Nienaber said it will be a problem that the Lions will have to deal with as well.
“In big games like this it takes a lot of emotion out of you and a lot of energy out of you,” Nienaber added
“It is draining because so much is at stake. I didn’t see Warren’s comment, but I agree with him when he says there is a lot of emotion going into these games.
“It is something that we will have to handle and it’s the same with them. It is something they will have to handle as a group.
“We spoke about it and luckily for us our group has been there before and it doesn’t make it easier, but it helps having that experience.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 4, 2021
‘It’s a balance’
Although Jones said Saturday’s match in Cape Town had the potential to be an “arm wrestle”, similar to the first two Tests, the Lions needed to be able to play a more attacking game if they got the opportunity.
“Sometimes ‘finals’ can be attritional, but they can open up,” Jones said during an online news conference.
“I’d like to think we are prepared for both. We don’t want to stifle ourselves with too much relying on the kicking game. It’s a balance, which is probably something we didn’t have last week.”
Jones said he expected “simplicity, discipline, accuracy and the energy we’ve shown throughout the tour” from his players.
Improving the Lions’ set-piece and their discipline were key requirements after the penalty count went against them, particularly in the last 20 minutes of the second Test.
Another priority will be to maintain the tempo of the game after it took more than two hours to complete two 40-minute halves in last Saturday’s second Test.
Jones said niggling exchanges with the opposition could be expected.
“They always happen,” he said. “It’s a case of not taking a step back but also an awareness of keeping the game flowing.”
He said the fact that the third Test starting XV hadn’t played together previously was “probably the biggest challenge you find on a Lions tour”, but he was not unduly concerned.
“We’ve had that week on week since the start of the tour.
“The game plan I’d like to think has been very similar throughout and [so has] the consciousness of the players on the job at hand. And let’s not forget the level of player that we have here.”
The setpiece is always a critical area of focus – Robin McBryde discusses how the squad prepare and reflects on the scrum 💪
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) August 5, 2021
Players to watch
For South Africa: With Faf de Klerk out injured, Cobus Reinach gets the No.9 jersey. Reinach will form a halfback partnership with Handre Pollard and it shouldn’t bring too many disruptions as they play together at Montpellier as well. Pieter-Steph du Toit is another player missing because of injury. Franco Mostert has been moved to that No.7 role and he has got that physical presence to trouble the Lions. Mostert’s positional switch means Lood de Jager comes into the second row. The lock was fantastic in the second half of the second Test and he adds another line-out option for the team. Cheslin Kolbe has not had a lot of opportunities to run with the ball in the Test series and maybe a moment of magic from him will decide the series.
For B&I Lions: Liam Williams (fullback) and Josh Adams (wing) are the new faces in the back three this week and they bring some X-factor. Adams was scoring tries left, right and centre in the build-up games to the Test series and he can give the Boks some problems if he is given some space. The same can be said about Williams, who has a knack for unlocking defences when he joins from the back. Bundee Aki comes into the midfield and he is a strong ball carrier and a hard tackler, which will give something for Damian de Allende to think about. Scotland playmaker Finn Russell has been included on the bench and he is another dangerman when it comes to the Lions’ attacking game.
Head to head
The forward battle will be key again and there will be a spotlight on the scrums. The British and Irish Lions have made two changes to the front row with injury-free Wyn Jones taking his place on the loosehead to make his Lions Test debut alongside Ken Owens, who is promoted from the bench to start his first Test of the tour at hooker. Those two will join Tadhg Furlong in the front row and they will need to muster all their strength against Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe to try and get the upper hand in those crucial early scrums.
1974: B&I Lions won 12-3, Cape Town
1974: B&I Lions won 28-9, Pretoria
1974: B&I Lions won 26-9, Port Elizabeth
1974: SA and B&I Lions drew 13-all, Johannesburg
1980: SA won 26-22, Cape Town
1980: SA won 26-19, Bloemfontein
1980: SA won 12-10, Port Elizabeth
1980: B&I Lions won 17-13, Pretoria
1997: B&I Lions won 25-16, Cape Town
1997: B&I Lions won 18-15, Durban
1997: SA won 35-16, Johannesburg
2009: SA won 26-21, Durban
2009: SA won 28-25, Pretoria
2009: B&I Lions won 28-9, Johannesburg
2021: B&I Lions won 22-17, Cape Town
2021: SA won 27-9, Cape Town
@rugby365com: South Africa by five points.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Damian Willemse.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Elliot Daly
Date: Saturday, August 7
Venue: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 18.00 (17.00 BST; 16.00 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be mostly cloudy with a high of 18°C, low of 10°C. Winds light and variable.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Additional source: AFP