Springboks Vs. British and Irish Lions: Second Test Preview

Sanjay DevaCorrespondent IJune 24, 2009

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 20:  Victor Matfield controls the maul to set up the try for Heinrich Brussow of South Africa during the First Test match between the South African Springboks and the British and Irish Lions at the Kings Park Stadium on June 20, 2009 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The second test match between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions takes place on Saturday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld, in Pretoria.

Both teams will be looking to make significant improvements from their first test efforts, but the Lions have to take the hard road. After the first game in Durban, at sea level, the Lions had to move to Capetown for their mid-week game. Conditions in Capetown have been wet so far, and are entirely different to what they can expect  at high altitude in Pretoria. They will remain in Capetown for the week, and only travel to Pretoria the day before the test, to try and limit the effects of altitude.

Playing on the highveld, at the fortresses of Loftus and Ellis Park, the challenge of the altitude is just as much mental as it is physical. This is Afrikaans territory, where the crowds are extremely passionate and not altogether friendly (until after the game), and you have to cope with trying to learn the flight of the ball through the rarefied air.

And if you can master that, there's always the burning in your lungs that hits you after 20-30 minutes of chasing the Springboks around. Travelling up the day before, there are the mental games that ask you, "how will I cope in the second half?" Mentally the Lions needed to be up on the highveld at the same time as the Boks, because now they bring that mental uncertainty into the equation.

The fact that so many Bulls are in the Bok side also can't be underestimated. The Boks grow an extra arm and leg it seems up at altitude, and the Bulls players just love Loftus. It will motivate them, inspire them and give them the mental relaxation to believe they will win and win well. If the Lions thought that winning at Durban was tough, well things just moved to another level.

The Boks will be so much better off after having their first hit out for the year. Even they wouldn't have known exactly where they stood, but they can learn from that and work on their shortcomings. The midfield defence will be better, even more so with the inclusion of Schalk Burger.

The side that Pieter de Villiers has named is not the strongest side in my opinion. It was interesting to see Div go with a 5-2 on the bench, as earlier in the week I wondered about the possibility of Ruan Pienaar covering the scrumhalf position seeing as Morne Steyn is also in the side. I was also thinking of a 5-2 split on the bench. The only difference is that my reserves bench wouldn't have Chiliboy and Andries Bekker.

If the Lions are to have any chance of beating the Springboks, they'll have to do so through their backs and creating chances through their midfield. The Boks will look to play no risk rugby first, relying on territory and dominance through the forwards. It's a bit one-dimensional, but it worked in for 60 minutes in Durban, and it won them the world cup in 2007.

The Lions could exploit the weak defence of Jacobs through Roberts and O'Driscoll which will create chances. However they'll need some clinical finishing unlike last week where Money and co butchered 4-5 chances. Schalk Burger will also shore up the cover defence meaning less chance from second phase.

If the Lions can start well and actually take the lead, the Boks may feel the pressure. However the Boks usually start well, and once they get their noses in front, it will be hard to come back. Just as we saw with the Bulls a month ago. I'm picking a more cohesive display from both sides, but especially the Boks. They'll start like a house on fire and grow an extra arm and leg with the support of a strong, passionate crowd at Loftus and should have a 10 point lead at the break. The second half is where the pain will begin for the Lions as the pressure and altitude start to take effect and i'm backing the Boks by 20! Look out for strong performances from the Bulls players, especially Spies and Du Preez.

It may have taken 12 years, but finally we'll set the record straight...

Related

    Dame Time? Try Desperation Time

    Featured logo
    Featured

    Dame Time? Try Desperation Time

    Adam Fromal
    via Bleacher Report

    Dubs Cruise Past Spurs to Go Up 3-0

    Featured logo
    Featured

    Dubs Cruise Past Spurs to Go Up 3-0

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Pelicans Take Commanding 3-0 Lead

    Featured logo
    Featured

    Pelicans Take Commanding 3-0 Lead

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    Win-Loss Predictions for Every Team

    Featured logo
    Featured

    Win-Loss Predictions for Every Team

    Brent Sobleski
    via Bleacher Report