DURBAN – At 1-1 in the series, there is very little between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions as they go into the big decider at the Cape Town Stadium.
There are match-ups a-plenty across the evenly matched teams but Mike Greenaway looks at four battles that could influence the outcome.
Cobus Reinach vs Ali Price
Both of these scrumhalves did not play in the second Test although Price was in action in the Lions’ win in the opening Test. Reinach has come straight into the Bok starting line-up after having played no part in the other matches. With Faf de Klerk injured, Reinach is preferred to Herschel Jantjies because of his experience plus the fact that he plays with Handre Pollard at Montpellier. He is a lively attacker, as is Price, who played well in the first Test only to make way for Conor Murray.
Cheslin Kolbe vs Duhan van der Merwe
The South African-born Scot on the Lions’ left wing entered the Test series as hot property but he has found the Boks are way tougher than the provincial opposition that he steam-rollered. And in last week’s match he was iffy under the high ball and his discipline was questionable – he should have been yellow-carded for a late tackle on Pieter-Steph du Toit and he could well have been red-carded for tripping Kolbe. The Bok right wing has been kept quiet by the Lions – he has been identified as the Bok dangerman and he will be desperate to find a way to wriggle out of the defence that is smothering him.
Lood de Jager vs Alun Wyn Jones
The lanky De Jager had a massive impact on the game when he came on in the second half. He instantly sorted out the struggling Bok lineout and brought calmness and composure to the pack. He is an intelligent player and his elevation to the starting lineup after having been out for so long with injury is significant. Jones at 35 will be playing his last game for the Lions after a stellar career. He has been solid but hardly spectacular in the series and he would love to bow out with a big performance.
Jasper Wiese vs Jack Conan
The Boks have had a tough time filling the boots of the great Duane Vermeulen at No 8. In the first Test, they gambled with Kwagga Smith and got a moderate return. Smith was okay but made a few errors, especially under the high ball. Young Wiese replaced him in the second Test and suffered stage fright in making some elementary mistakes such as dropping the ball from a kick-off. The Boks need him to step up and deliver the form that made him such a handful for Leicester in the English Premiership. By contrast, the Lions have had a consistently good No 8 in Irishman Conan.