From Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
CHANGE is the theme of the third Lions Test with both sides getting out the tippex and bringing in a raft of new players for the final Test at Ellis Park.
The Lions’ changes have been prompted by injury as only one of the players (Tommy Bow) who went to hospital after the second Test makes it for the third.
Ian McGeechan has dropped Luke Fitzgerald and Tom Croft, bringing in Ugo Monye and Joe Worsley as he tries to beef up his defence.
Amid all the chaos and emotion last Saturday I think the tape of the game would have made very uncomfortable reading for players in the defensive line. How on earth JP Pietersen was allowed off his wing from first phase and over the line is anyone’s guess – Fitzgerald seems to have paid for that.
The Lions game plan rests on Shaun Edwards’ shoulders this weekend. As Defence Coach he has seen a worrying number of tries scored (five so far) and must plug those gaps if the Lions have any chance of winning the third Test. Worsley will go a long way to helping this.
Their defence has to be the platform for victory. Much of defence is about attitude and if the Lions are running at 100% intensity the tries will pour in. Pass this test and I have no doubt they will win the third Test – little more than they deserve from this tour.
They are now far more used to the conditions at altitude, which did hamper their ambitions to play multi-phase rugby in the second Test in Pretoria.
South Africa’s changes are interesting. The senior players in the spine of the team – John Smit, Victory Matfield, Fourie du Preez – have been kept while the changes to the centres make them stronger.
Boks coach Peter de Villiers makes his changes form strength and he is spot on to make these changes to test out guys like Kirchner, Steyn, Kankowski and Ralepelle. No one knows whether these players have the ability to win 50 caps for the winning South African side – Saturday will tell us.
Teams like South Africa rarely get to play ‘big’ games they can afford to lose, so this is on use De Villiers can use to test his back-up players.
I predict a Lions victory as I think they can retain their intensity, while the Boks have made too many changes. I say the Lions by 7 points.
But what do you think? 2-1 or 3-0 and why?
B&I Lions: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Ugo Monye, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 John Hayes, 18 Alun-Wyn Jones, 19 David Wallace, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Harry Ellis, 22 James Hook.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Johann Muller, 3 John Smit, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Guthro Steenkamp, 18 Dean Carstens, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Pierre Spies, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Frans Steyn.
Date: Saturday, July 4
Kick-off: 15:00 (14:00 BST)
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assistant referee: Christophe Berdos (France), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Television match official: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assessor: Tappe Henning
Timekeeper: Gabriel Pappa