bring it home 16:59, 31 Jul 2021Updated: 16:59, 31 Jul 2021THE British and Irish Lions are 80 minutes away from a first series win in South Africa since 1997.
Warren Gatland’s men came from nine points down to beat the Springboks in the first Test in Cape Town and will be looking for a repeat of their second half performance this week.
However, South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus was fuming with referee Nic Berry’s performance, delivering an hour-long video rant.
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British and Irish Lions XV: 15 – Stuart Hogg, 14 – Anthony Watson, 13 – Chris Harris, 12 – Robbie Henshaw, 11 – Duhan van der Merwe, 10 – Dan Biggar, 9 – Conor Murray, 1 – Mako Vunipola, 2 – Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 – Tadgh Furlong, 4 – Maro Itoje, 5 – Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 – Courtney Lawes, 7 – Tom Curry, 8 – Jack Conan
South Africa XV: 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
First of all though we’ll have the South African national anthem.
It echoes around an empty Cape Town Stadium.
HERE THEY COME
Alun Wyn Jones leads the British & Irish Lions out onto the pitch to bursts of fire from pyrotechnic devices.
The Springboks will be out next, and then kick off!
HERE. WE. GO.
South Africa front rower Steven Kitshoff wins his 50th cap for the Boks today.
He’ll lead the green and gold shirts onto the pitch on what is a proud day for him.
It’s not long now until we’ll see the teams emerge from the tunnel.
Alun Wyn Jones and Siya Kolisi carry out the coin toss with referee Ben O’Keeffe.
Meanwhile the rest of the team are going through their final pre-match routines.
FIFTEEN MINUTE WARNING
The tension is building.
Just fifteen minutes left now until the first whistle in Cape Town.
The British & Irish Lions are just two hours away from going a third Test series unbeaten.
Or a South Africa win would take it to a third Test decider next week…
INSIDE THE GROUND
A look inside the empty Cape Town Stadium ahead of kick off as both sides go through their pre-match routines.
No fans have been present for any of the Lions games in South Africa due to Coronavirus restrictions in the country.
Lions boss Warren Gatland watches his team warm-up on the pitch at the Cape Town Stadium as kick off edges ever closer.
The first whistle is just twenty minutes away!
Here are the pre-match thoughts of Lions boss Warren Gatland in response to criticism from the South Africa camp that he destroyed the integrity of the series:
“To put the record straight post-match last week I never made one comment about the TMO.
“We questioned World Rugby in terms of the process and not having a back-up plan in terms of [if] there was any replacements needed.
“So that was the question, it wasn’t a question of integrity or anything like that.
“So I’ve sort of been accused of making comments last week, before the match I never said anything about the TMO so I’m not sure how the narrative has changed from that point of view.”
Lions No.8 Jack Conan quietly went about his business last week.
Conan made twelve carries in the last weeks Test, the most of any British & Irish Lion, taking his overall tally to 59 on the tour.
That’s 16 more than the next best player (Duhan van der Merwe – 43).
The Irish man has also gained the most post-contact metres of any forward (136) and gets the nod from Warren Gatland ahead today ahead of Taulupe Faletau.
MORE ON JACQUES
And this is what Jacques Nienaber has to say on Rassie Erasmus’ midweek outburst at the officials:
“No I must say that’s Rassie [Erasmus].
“As Director of Rugby he felt he needed to get a message across.
“He discussed it with us [the team], we agreed and he got the message across.
“For us it was business as usual, we focus on the main thing which is preparing the team and getting ready for this massive occasion.”
Here’s what South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has to say ahead of kick off:
“Obviously it’s a big game for us, for both teams.
“It’s do or die for both [teams], it’s do or die for us and for them.
“They probably going to clinch the series so it’s a massive game, since the World Cup final it will probably be our biggest game.”
MAN OF THE MATCH
Maro Itoje was absolutely superb for the Lions last week.
He won three turnovers in the first Test, the most by any player in the opening Test of this year’s series.
It was also the most by any player in a Lions Test since Sam Warburton won four for the Lions against Australia in the 2nd Test in 2013.
STORY SO FAR
Here’s how the 2021 Lions tour to South Africa has played out.
There’s just one blot on the Lions copybook so far, the 17-13 loss to South Africa ‘A’ two weeks ago.
There’s just two games left to play now, and victory today will secure a historic Test series victory.
STAGE IS SET
The Cape Town Stadium once again plays host to the Lions against South Africa after being the venue for the first Test seven days ago.
And it will also host the third Test next week after the original plans to return to Johannesburg after the first Test were scrapped due to fears regarding the Coronavirus situation in the country.
DRESSING ROOM VIEW
A look inside the Lions dressing room at the crisp red shirts ready to see battle.
SHUFFLING THE PACK
Let’s take a closer look at Warren Gatland’s three changes to the Lions starting line-up.
Mako Vunipola comes in to start in the front row in the place of Rory Sutherland after a monster appearance off the bench last week.
Conor Murray is also called up to the starting side as he replaces Ali Price, despite Price impressing last week.
Murray will bring invaluable experience though and a brilliant kicking game that will aim to put the Springboks on the back foot.
And Chris Harris comes into the centres in place of Elliot Daly.
Last weeks game wasn’t Daly’s finest as conceded a couple of penalties that allowed Handre Pollard to kick the Boks into the lead.
Chris Harris is preferred at outside centre and brings more physicality to the side to match up the brutal South Africa centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.
South Africa danger man Cheslin Kolbe didn’t beat a single defender in the first Test last week.
Going into the game he had the best tackle evasion percentage of any Tier One non-half back in Test rugby since his debut, having evaded 49 of 89 attempted tackles (55%).
He’s certainly got some talent in his locker, which the England players will know all about after Kolbe crossed for the Springboks in their 32-12 World Cup final win over England.
Will we see a different Cheslin Kolbe today?
Alun Wyn Jones wins his eleventh British & Irish Lions Test cap.
He becomes the outright fifth most capped player in Lions history, behind only Willie John McBride (17), Dickie Jeeps (13), Mike Gibson and Graham Price (both 12).
The British & Irish Lions have lost just two series after winning the first Test (W10, D1) – against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001.
That stat certainly bodes well for Warren Gatland’s tourists, but all history will be forgotten when the first whistle comes around.
ONE HOUR WARNING
Just an hour to go now until the second Test gets underway in Cape Town.
Will the Lions seal an historic series win against the World Champions to make it three series in a row unbeaten?
Or will the Springboks come back to level things up at 1-1 to take it to a deciding Test next week?
There’s not long to go now until we find out!
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Rassie Erasmus dropped a Lions bombshell as the South Africa boss said he would QUIT ahead of the last two Tests, JONNY FORDHAM reports.
Under-pressure Erasmus posted a shock hour-long video this morning as he went nuclear.
During a sensational and damning slating of the referees for South Africa’s First Test defeat, the Springboks chief issued endless threats to step down.
Ranting Erasmus said: “I have previous encounters where I’ve made mistakes, saying things in public about referees and that normally comes back to bite you.
“But in this instance, the Lions only comes around every 12 years.
“And I think it should be fair that I’ll step away from these last two Test matches, but let the Springboks and the Lions have an equal chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect and the way that players get treated.”
South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus says he will quit Lions series in shock video
And this is what Kolisi had to say when quizzed on how he’d been disrespected:
“Did you watch the video? Watch that and then we can chat afterwards.
“I don’t really want to get into it to be honest. I don’t want to get involved in that, I just didn’t feel I was given the same access to the referee.
“If you watch the game again you’ll definitely be able to see.
“But it’s already happened, I don’t want to speak too much about it, it’s not going to change anything.”
WAR OF WORDS
Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi was not happy with referee Nic Berry in the first Test last week.
The Boks had two tries disallowed by the TMO, with Kolisi claiming he didn’t feel respected by the referee.
He said: “I didn’t feel respected at all, I didn’t feel I was given a fair opportunity.
“But I’m looking forward to a new game and a new referee.
“I think Ben [O’Keeffe] will give a fair opportunity for both captains, and that’s all we’re asking.”
It’s fair to say South Africa’s second half discipline cost them last week.
The Box conceded eight penalties in the second half compared to the Lions just conceding one.
As well as that, six of those penalties were in their own half giving the Lions chances to put points on the board.
Whoever wins the discipline battle today is likely to come out on top at full time.
HISTORY AGAINST THEM
The British and Irish Lions won the opening match of this year’s series last week, but only twice since 1900 have the Lions won their opening two games of a Test series against the Springboks.
Wins in the opening two Tests against the Boks last came in 1974 and 1997.