British and Irish Lions against South Africa are “having a big impact,” says Ronan O’Gara
The time it took for referees to make decisions contributed to a slow second test
|Venue: Cape Town Stadium Date: Saturday 7th August Kicking off: 17:00 CEST|
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The crucial third test by the British and Irish Lions in South Africa “has a huge impact on the future of rugby,” says three-time tourist Ronan O’Gara.
ON slow second test drew criticism, as did the styles of play on both sides, with little fluent rugby from either.
O’Gara says a quality match is required “to save this series”.
The Lions expressed frustration over the involvement of a South African TV match official ahead of their inaugural win, and South African rugby director Erasmus fired back with an unprecedented video criticizing the referees of the first test.
The first 40 minutes of the second Test defeat took 62 minutes to make reigning decisions, and O’Gara believes it was “worse standing” than the opener.
“The series is 1-1 and I don’t have any positive attitudes or excitement about this weekend, which is terrifying when you think about who is playing and what is at stake,” said the La Rochelle head coach Rugby Union weekly.
“It’s very easy to understand the fans’ complaints because unfortunately there has been very little positive action on the field.
“It is very disappointing because you are speaking of the best of the best of the British and Irish Lions against South Africa.
“There was cynicism, anger and frustration. Rugby has to be really strong at the weekend for this series to be saved.”
Playing like South Africa “ends ugly”
South Africa’s crushing physicality helped them win the 2019 World Cup
Lions head coach Warren Gatland recognized the need for a change after last weekend 27-9 defeat and has brought six new players to its starting XI.
Hooker Ken Owens, prop master Wyn Jones, scrum half Ali Price, center Bundee Aki, wing Josh Adams and full-back Liam Williams enter the battle as a number of Gatland’s more seasoned Lions are cut off from the 23.
Taulupe Faletau, Anthony Watson, and Owen Farrell – whom O’Gara says may have been “the key to the series” – were all removed from the decision.
Aviator half Finn Russell sits on the bench after recovering from an Achilles injury and Sam Simmonds number eight is another offensive replacement as he prepares for his Lions Test debut.
The world champions are missing the talismans Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit, Cobus Reinach starts at nine and Franco Mostert moves into the back row.
Lood de Jager starts in suspension and the 37-year-old fly half Morne Steyn, who sealed the series with a distance penalty in 2009, is sitting on the bench.
South Africa was forced to defend its style of play after a second test, which was dominated by physical fighting in the foreground and a heavy reliance on kicking.
The Lions tried and failed to keep up with the Springboks on both areas, and O’Gara says the roster selection suggests more of that could come from Gatland’s side.
“South Africa is building,” he said.
“You will inevitably be better when the Lions are suddenly almost split personalities – what are we?
“Are we now changing our philosophy, changing our style and trying to take advantage of the inevitable space?
“Or are we doubling up on this type of game that we saw? I think Gatland did that in his selection.
“Aside from Finn Russell, it shows me that he believes he can get over the line this way and I don’t think this is the smartest way to get a result, but maybe it is in the final test.
“When you try to play like them [South Africa] play and get no results, it ends up pretty ugly. “
‘Top Level has a problem’ when there are no more attempts
O’Gara says players “become obsessed” when they don a Lions jersey, and if the current crop can produce a performance similar to what led to the legendary 1997 streak win in South Africa, this tour could still be at its peak end up.
The Lions scored only one attempt in the first two tests, with Luke Cowan-Dickie crossing himself in one mouth to help them get one 22-17 victory in the beginning.
A total of four attempts have been made on the series so far, and O’Gara says if there is no more excitement in the final test, the game is “in jeopardy” as it seeks to gain new fans.
“We’re looking at the Lions who get an attempt from a drive over mouth in test rugby, which means the game at the highest level has a problem,” he said.
The former Irish fly half said the Lions need a “spark” if they are to have any hope of a series win.
“From the perspective of the attack, they are not knocking on the door,” he continued.
“There is a kick policy, but you have to have multiple threats at this level if you want to cause problems.
“You don’t win big games without trying.”
British and Irish Lions: Williams; Adams, Henshaw, Aki, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Price; Jones, Owens, Furlong, Itoje, Wyn Jones (c), Lawes, Curry, Conan.
Substitute: Cowan-Dickie, Vunipola, Sinckler, Beard, Simmonds, Murray, Russell, Daly.
South Africa: Le Roux; Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, Reinach; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, De Jager, Kolisi (c), Mostert, Wiese.
Substitute: Marx, Nyakane, Koch, Van Staden, Smith, Jantjies, Steyn, Willemse.