First blood has been drawn. Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions outmuscled the South African pack, outgunned their half-backs in the aerial battle, and outlasted their famed ‘Bomb Squad’ to secure a 22-17 triumph in the first Test of the series.
But one result does not cement a team in the history books; only another win will suffice.
Date, kick-off time and where to watch
Kick-off is at 5pm BST today (Saturday, July 31, 2021) and the match will be live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Rugby.
Highlights will be available on All4.
As a result of Covid-19 and social unrest on the Highveld, the tour remains in Cape Town.
Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, is a football ground. It showed last week.
Scrums and line-outs chewed up the turf and prevented both sets of dynamic backs from truly unleashing their potential.
If the footing underneath is again slippery the contest might descend into an arm wrestle. Despite the result in the first Test, both coaches will fancy their heavies winning the day.
Lions team news
15 Stuart Hogg (S), 14 Anthony Watson (E), 13 Chris Harris (S), 12 Robbie Henshaw (I), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (S), Dan Biggar (W), Conor Murray (I), 1 Mako Vunipola (E), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (E), 3 Tadgh Furlong, 4 Maro Itoje (E), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (W) (c), 6 Courtney Lawes (E), 7 Tom Curry (E), 8 Jack Conan (I)
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens (W), 17 Rory Sutherland (S), 18 Kyle Sinkler (E), 19 Tadgh Beirne (I), 20 Taulupe Faletau (W), 21 Ali Price (S), 22 Owen Farrell (E), 23 Eliot Daly (E).
Gatland has made several changes to the team that carried the Lions to victory last Saturday.
Conor Murray steps off the bench to begin at scrum-half, switching roles with Ali Price to partner Dan Biggar in the half-backs.
Mako Vunipola has brushed off suggestions from South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus that he committed foul play in the first Test and starts proceedings this weekend. He was a 56th-minute replacement for Rory Sutherland, who begins on the bench.
Wales’ rangy loose forward Taulupe Faletau is the final alteration. He is one of five replacement forwards as Gatland has again opted for a 5-3 split.
Elliot Daly drops out from the starting 15 as Chris Harris starts at 13. There is no place for Liam Williams in the 23.
“As always, selection was incredibly tough,” said Gatland.
“However, we’ve made the changes we think are the right calls for the weekend’s game.
“It’ll be another tight contest. We know the Springboks will be hurting and they’ll throw everything at us on Saturday, but I think there’s plenty more to come from us too. We feel we can go up another level from where we were in the first Test and I would expect us to improve.
“It’s the biggest game on the tour and we have to embrace the expectation that comes with it. As players and coaches, these are the games you want to be involved in. We’re relishing the opportunity to face the Springboks again on Saturday and potentially seal a series win.”
South Africa team news
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 1 Steven Kitshoff, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8 Jasper Wiese
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
Jacques Nienaber has identified three key areas that cost his side the first Test and has sought to rectify them.
The first is the lack of bulk in the back row. Kwagga Smith is a versatile loose forward with a dangerous stepping game honed on the sevens circuit. But he is a relative lightweight compared to the imposing Jasper Wiese who steps into the No8 position.
The scrum was also a letdown and the Springbok coach has replaced both props with Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe starting alongside hooker Bongi Mbonambi. Trevor Nyakane begins on the bench with Saracens big man Vincent Koch replacing Ox Nche.
Nienaber has also reverted to a 6-2 split on the bench, reprising the tactic that paid dividends in the World Cup.
Marco van Staden replaces Rynhard Elstadt as mercurial fly-half Elton Jantjies misses out entirely. This means that one of Handre Pollard or Willie le Roux may be expected to play all 80 minutes.
“This is a massive game for us,” Nienaber said. “It is do or die in order to stay in the race to win the series and we selected a team that offers continuity in selection, but also that we thought would be the best suited to achieve the objectives we have set for this match.”
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Before the Lions left for South Africa, most pundits expected Gatland to employ a tactic built around mobile loose forwards and speedy outside backs.
Instead his charges won the day by beating the Springboks at their own game. The home side will be desperate to rectify what they perceive to be the natural order of things, but the Lions have a blueprint for success.
Much will depend on the second half, with the final 20 minutes no doubt proving decisive again.
The bounce of a ball or a 50/50 referee call could swing things in either direction.
For the sake of coming back for a series decider, we’re going with a Springbok victory here.
Lions 15-23 South Africa.
Lions to win: Evens
South Africa to win: 6/5
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