Just your regular week build-up to a Test match, with a one member of a coaching staff releasing an hour-long video highlighting many, many, many grievances against their side. Fans on both sides have torn into Rassie Erasmus or lauded him as the saviour of the modern lawbook. It’s been messy. All a bit unsavoury. I’ve never wanted a Test match to arrive quick enough.
Erasmus had some salient points in his video regarding decisions against his side but, as he pointed out himself, put together a biased video highlighting where the Lions were wronged in the first Test and you’re bound to find some dirt. But, knowing how smart Erasmus is in these weeks, it’s all felt like a bit of a show, put on to take attention off a Springboks side who dramatically lost a lot of steam in the second half in the first Test and lost that second half 19-5 in a poor performance.
Will the ploy have worked? Guess we’ll find out surely, but for a South African public who crave collective outrage in the face of perceived sporting injustice, the clips in particular of Siya Kolisi being supposedly disrespected by Nic Berry have been lapped up by the home supporters. Some of it’s bordered on hysterical, almost forgetting that Alun Wyn Jones leaves most Test captains panicking to try and get their point across to a referee (I’m thinking of Owen Farrell) when they feel they’ve lost their ear.
Warren Gatland has surely loved all this. We’ve barely talked about his selection, where the Lions need to improve, the pressure that comes with going for a first Test series win in South Africa since 1997. They’ve coasted under the radar and for Gatland, that’s absolutely idea.
Anyway, that’s enough time on all the b——- spouted in the week. Let’s focus on the Test, with the Lions now 80 minutes from making history in South Africa.
There are three changes from last week: Chris Harris in for Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray for Ali Price, and Mako Vunipola for Rory Sutherland. Taulupe Faletau comes onto the Lions bench, replacing Hamish Watson, while Elliot Daly is in the No 23 jersey ahead of Liam Williams to cover the backline.
As for the Springboks, the backline’s unchanged but Jasper Wiese comes in at No 8 for Kwagga Smith, while there are new props in Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.
Trevor Nyakane, the starting tighthead last week, will cover loosehead off the bench, as the Boks go back to a 6-2 split, adding Marco van Staden as an extra back-row forward with Elton Jantjies dropping out of the matchday 23.