Darry Worthington previews the second Test between the British and Irish Lions, which takes place on Saturday the 1st of August.
It’s do or die time for the reigning world champions as they tackle a Lions side that can wrap up the series with another win this Saturday.
Will the hosts keep the tour aliver, or will the visitors close things out with a game to spare? Our rugby writer voices his opinion on the matter below.
South Africa v British and Irish Lions
Saturday 1 August
Cape Town Stadium
To Win (80 Mins)
South Africa 1/1
South Africa – + 1.5 (9/10)
Lions – -1.5 (9/10)
To coin a term made famous by comedic actor Will Ferrell’s Anchorman character; “Well, that escalated quickly!
Things were already starting to boil over in the build up to last week’s Test with Warren Gatland tactically voicing his concerns over the appointment of Marius Jonker as the TMO for the first Test. Gatland was very shrewd in the manner he approached the subject, avoiding direct criticism of Jonker and instead taking aim at World Rugby for not having a better back up plan when the original TMO, Brendan Pickerell, was unable to fulfil his duties due to travel restrictions.
The ploy worked a treat as Jonker was under pressure to seem as neutral as possible, which leads one to suspect that his overruling of Willie Le Roux’ try in the second half may have been influenced by Gatland’s tactile words. It was a massively tight call but on field referee Nick Berry had awarded the try and Jonker had to find a clear and obvious reason not to award. Was Le Roux clearly and obviously offside? Not for my money but I’m not a TMO and I don’t have that sort of pressure on my shoulders.
There were also a few more controversial calls in the game with Hamish Watson somehow avoiding a yellow card for a tip tackle.
While things didn’t go all their way, the ‘Boks still only have themselves to blame as they were well in control of the fixture at half-time having been 12-3 to the good when the teams went into the sheds.
As was the case with the SA A fixture, the South Africans ran out of steam in the second stanza and eventually became the bullied with Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje dominating proceedings in the final quarter of the game. Some errant goal-kicking from Handre Pollard and tries from Luke Cowan Dickie and deadly accurate penalty kicking from Biggar and Farrell saw the Lions take the fixture 17-22.
And this is where things get really interesting. This past week has seen Rassie Erasmus go on the attack, albeit in a hilariously covert/not so covert manner that rivals even the CIA’s biggest exploits/mishaps. The South African director of rugby has retweeted a couple of videos on Twitter which seem to come from a burner account of his own creation. These Tweets point out some of the questionable officiating decisions made last weekend, including Mako Vunipoala’s lifting of Cheslin Kolbe when the Springbok winger was lying on the ground possibly feigning injury.
There’s likely to be more hijinxs in store as we edge closer to the Test. And while this isn’t necessarily in the spirit of rugby, it does make for some epic viewing as it is shithousery of the highest order.
On to team news now, and both sets of coaching staff have made a couple of changes. The South Africans have opted to bring in Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitschoff into the starting front row with Trevor Nyakane moved to the bench and the impressive Ox Nche dropping out of the squad entirely. The other change to the side sees Jasper Wiese come in at eight with Kwagga Smith shifting to the pine. There are further changes to the bench with the ‘Boks opting for a six/two forwards-backs split. This sees Elton Jantjies drop out of the matchday 23 and Marco van Staden come into the reserves.
On the Lions side, Scottish centre Chris Harris comes in for Eliot Daily as the starting 13, while Irish scrum-half Connor Murray comes in for Ali Price in the final switch to the starting backline. In the pack, Mako Vunipoal gets the starting loosehead, while Taulepe Faletau replaces Hamish Watson on the bench. While Dan is listed as the starting ten, he still needs to go through a few head injury assessments. Should he not come through these, then Owen Farell is likely to replace him in the run on XV with Finn Russel likely to be on the bench, having overcome his injury.
Verdict: South Africa 1/1
I like the hosts here. Another game under their belts would have done wonders for their fitness levels. I also feel Gatland has not got his team selection right as both Ali Price and Elliot Daily were key to the Lions success last weekend. Not starting them could prove to be a major faux paux.