Springboks V British and Irish Lions: 3rd Test Preview
The series is now over, and we are left playing for pride at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
At stake is a series whitewash, or reclaiming some pride and respect from the Lions. A 3-0 victory is what the public expect in South Africa, and will deflate the Lions and question whether their tours should continue. A 2-1 victory would suggest a close series, and will bring about a great deal of debate and reflection on what happened at Loftus Versfeld in the second test.
Springbok Coach Peter de Villiers named 10 changes in his starting lineup.
There are mostly enforced changes in the forwards due to injury and suspension, whilst the backline has mostly changes due to a selection/rotation policy.
I like the side, I'm not convinced Chiliboy is the second best hooker in the country, but it'll be exciting to see him given a go. Johan Muller will never let you down, but he doesn't have the class of a Bakkies Botha. I'd have liked to see Juan Smith moved to lock and Pierre Spies retained. The Free State flanking duo will be prominent though, and Ryan Kankowski is picked at No. 8. I've never been a fan of his, I think he's a show pony who doesn't have a high enough workrate or make his presence felt in tough games. Once again I fear he may be hard to find for the first 30 minutes or so.
The backline is exciting. Morne Steyn deserves his chance, I've sung his praises for a few years now. He has all the skills and his confidence is sky high. He can kick, he can run and he controls the backline well. I believe with him at flyhalf we'll see more of the wings on attack, something that's bee missing from the Boks for the last...well forever really! Wynand Olivier deserves his chance. He's simple and uncomplicated, and he'll fit in well with Morne Steyn to get the backline going.
Jacque Fourie is another who deserves his chance, and has been playing great rugby. He'll bring a more direct aspect to the backline play and set good targets for second phase ball. I'm not sure Odwa Ndungane is a test wing, but his workrate is quite good, so he'll be involved a lot.
The other wing is what excites me most. For five years I've been saying Nokwe is the fastest win in South Africa, and I believe he is awesome. He can finish superbly, we just need to give him some space. His defence has improved, and under the high ball he may be a bit shaky, but who cares! Just give him an inch of space and he'll score tries!
It's the fullback position that excites me most. I said Zane Kirchner would be a Springbok by the end of the year, and i'm so happy they have brought him in sooner rather than later. This kid is solid as a rock. He has a great kicking game and contests the ball well. He tackles superbly but it's his inclusion into the line and ability to set others away that should see him blow the Lions away in the last 30 minutes.
The British and Irish Lions meanwhile have made 8 changes, mostly due to injury.
In the forwards, Sheridan and Vickery need to ensure the Lions get a solid scrum going. The flank combination looks strengthened in my view with Martyn Williams and Joe Worsley, although Heaslip at number eight is a weak point for me.
The backline looks disjointed and the midfield decidely shaky. Replacing Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll with Riki Flutey and Tommy Bowe takes so much away from where the Lions can attack. In Shane Williams, Ugo Monye and Rob Kearney they have some three-quarters who can threaten the Boks, but not without being set up well. I fear the Lions attack will be fairly blunt and they'll rely a lot on the boot of Stephen Jones.
Then there is the cauldron of Ellis Park. The "Field of dreams" for South Africa. We don't lose here. We won't lose here. And I'm picking the Boks to win by 20 as the altitude once again takes effect and we start to dominate a Lions side that simply won't have the firepower, the stamina or the desire to compete with a Springbok side that having won the series can now express itself without the pressures of winning a series. Go Bokke Go!
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