Cape Town – The British and Irish Lions face selection and tactical dilemmas ahead of the decisive third Test against the Springboks in Cape Town next Saturday.
The Lions were outplayed in the second half of the second Test on Saturday when the Springboks scored 21 unanswered points to pull off a series-levelling 27-9 win.
The Springbok turnaround poses a major challenge for Lions coach Warren Gatland, according to former Springboks coach Nick Mallett and other experts.
Speaking on SuperSport TV, Mallett said the Springboks had won key aspects of Saturday’s game in what he described as “a wonderful second half”.
They dominated the aerial battle, scrummaged well and launched effective driving mauls.
The Lions would have to rethink their strategy ahead of the decider, which will be played at the same venue as the first two Tests.
“Their attack is very effective, we’ve seen it in the franchise games,” said Mallett of the way Lions racked up points in warm-up matches.
“Are they going to pick a team that will move the ball with pace? Then they have to select a team with runners, guys like (Elliot) Daly and loose forwards with pace.
“Or are they still going to try and arm-wrestle with South Africa? The ball is in their court,” said Mallett.
Former Springbok captain Victor Matfield said Gatland faced “a very difficult week”.
“Will he take South Africa on at their own game or will they play with ball in hand?” Matfield asked.
Former Lions centre Jeremy Guscott praised “a colossal second half performance by the Boks”.
Guscott said Gatland needed to get the tourists to lift their game after failing to mount any significant attacks.
Former Lions coach Ian McGeechan wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that he expected changes in personnel.
“Momentum is not in the Lions’ favour, nor is confidence, which now clearly resides in South Africa’s corner.
“We know from previous Lions’ series that it will take a herculean feat to turn around the juggernaut.”
Another former coach, Sir Clive Woodward, wrote in the Mail on Sunday that the Lions “scarcely managed to fire a shot in anger. There will have to be a serious rethink.”
Gatland hinted during his post-match press conference that there could be changes.
“We will do a proper review of the match and look at individuals to see whether we do need to make some changes,” he said.
Although momentum was now with the Springboks, both Mallett and Matfield cautioned that it would not be easy for the home side to rise to the same level that they did on Saturday.
“The big thing now is how we are going to get ourselves back to that same mental tension and excitement that we had for this game,” said Mallett.
“The Lions have the ability and they have the players,” said Matfield.
“The biggest thing for the Springboks is the mental battle to be up there again. If you are even three or four percent off your game it makes a big difference.”
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