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Can wounded Lions salvage more than pride?

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Bryn Palmer | 19:11 UK time, Thursday, 2 July 2009

Johannesburg, Thursday evening

No wonder Ian McGeechan says victory in Saturday's final Test of this 2009 Lions series would be "very sweet".

If the odds were not already stacked against his side before it started, they have only lengthened as each week of their South African safari has unfolded.

After the brutality of the defining Pretoria Test, the impending joust in Jo'burg will hardly be a walk in Ellis Park either, despite a much-changed Springboks side.

The Lions training in Johannesburg on 1 July

Jeremy Guscott, who played in the final Tests of the 1989, 1993 and 1997 tours, believes for these Lions, Saturday will be "one of the toughest games they are ever likely to play in".

"Yes, you are still Lions and can wear the shirt with pride, but it is a dead rubber effectively," he said. "It is a bit like the third-fourth place play-off at the World Cup."

But while no player wants to play in that game, those still standing on this tour appear - at least publically - to be relishing one last crack at the Boks.

They may be without two first-choice props, and both their stellar centres - Jamie Roberts having joined Brian O'Driscoll on the hors de combat list.

But even as he laments the loss of the "outstanding" Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, and a dynamic midfield duo that, after just four outings together, may never be seen in tandem again, McGeechan continues to espouse defiant optimism.

These tourists aim to go out with a bang, playing the same brand of positive and entertaining rugby that has so thrilled the senses these past two weeks.

If it finally yields a tangible reward, some rather unpleasant statistics will be avoided, not least extending a record sequence of seven Lions Test defeats since 2001.

The Lions have also never been completely whitewashed in the 12 previous series they have played in South Africa stretching back 118 years.

The parties of 1903, 1924, 1962 and 1968 may not have won a Test, but they all managed at least one draw in their respective series.

An inglorious statistical footnote would be a sad way to conclude McGeechan's 35-year association with the Lions, encompassing 20 Tests as a player and head coach.

He said after steering the 2005 midweek Lions to an unbeaten record that he would not be guiding any future tours "unless they bring coaches out in wheelchairs".

But at 62, his energy and enthusiasm for the whole concept have once again shone through, even if he was moved to point out on Thursday that "I don't like losing, I never have done," in case anyone thought glorious defeat was his stock in trade.

But never mind the head coach, there are other reputations in need of a boost on Saturday.

Assistant coaches Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards are not the sort of men to accept a 3-0 series defeat without some serious soul-searching, nor too the on-field leadership.

Captain Paul O'Connell will be 33 in four years' time, so another tour is not out of the question, but a player who has won Heineken Cups and a Six Nations Grand Slam does not want his Lions Test CV to read 'played six, lost six'.

Joe Worsley

Now Wales prop Jenkins has departed injured, O'Connell is the only player left in the current side who started all three losing Tests in New Zealand in 2005, although fly-half Stephen Jones was also involved in all three.

Among a side showing eight changes, four enforced and one positional, they will not be alone in wanting to salvage something more tangible than mere pride.

Shane Williams, Ugo Monye and Phil Vickery all have a bit of restoration work to do on reputations partially tarnished by recent events, while Martyn Williams, Joe Worsley, Andrew Sheridan and Riki Flutey are all starting their first Lions Test, even if it is also likely to be their last.

"They want to be there, which is very important for a third Test," noted McGeechan, who knows better than anyone the emotion that will swirling around the Lions dressing-room before and after Saturday's match.

"As soon as you leave a Lions tour, you know you have left something which is so different to anything else you are asked to do as a coach or a player," he added.

"I have seen it as a huge privilege and an unbelievable experience to be involved so often with them. I have a lot of very good memories in South Africa, and a lot from this tour."

Is it too much to expect one last hurrah from the Lion king?


  • Comment number 1.

    We can do it. Simple really. Whilst we have lost 4 of our most influential players, their replacements have bags of potential. That coupled with a weakened South Africa side mean we have a chance to get a win. The lions have played terrificly well over the last 2 games, particularly when you take into account how long they have been playing together, they don't deserve to go down to a whitewash. I've been really impressed with Geech so far, his attitude to both the game and squad, taken into account with his team selections are all aimed, not at appeasing our irrelevant national pride but at winning the game. That lest we forget is the most important thing. Given the fiasco that was New Zealand 4 years ago, it's good to get back into contention with the Southern Hemisphere countries. I honestly believe if we had perhaps an extra 2 weeks or so, we could easily be 2 up instead of 2 down. Geech gets my vote for Australia in 4 years time.

    Having said that though Geech is taking a big risk with his squad selection in my own humble opinion. For the life of me I cannot see why Fitzgerald was dropped, not only out of the first 15 but out of the 22 altogether. Neither Monye or Williams have done anything spectacular so far that we've viewed. Williams especially, if Geech is indeed picking his squad 'on form' then why on earth is he in the side. My comments wil doubtless upset many welsh fans, but to me it seems particularly unfair that he is in the squad effectively as a gamble, on the chance that he might show the magic that won Wales the Grand Slam. The pressure will also be on Monye's shoulders to deliver, especially after the stick he got after the first test.

    Despite this though, I am confidant. We have a squad there that if ultimately capable of beating the South Africans. Whilst his selection of the wingers is questionable Geech knows what he's doing.

    Roll on saturday...

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Fair point famous salford lad - maybe we should have Ronan "I know I'll tackle the feller with me head while he's in the air" O'Gara instead?

  • Comment number 4.

    A random Rant there at J.Hook. I feel he has had a quite good tour. Also I can see the reasoning behind it, i think with the game being a dead rubber it could turn into an open game, not that the others have been tight, but a real open game of rugby and as people get tired Hook is ideal to come on and exploit space and tired legs. Also offers something diffrent to Jones and OG and covers a few postions in the backs. So there my friend is your answer. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    All the best for Saturday Boys

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I sgree, dsnnyjohn.. Hook is capable of magical sleight of hand, his passing is immense, kicking (out of hand and place) awesome,vision superb - at his best.. If he's brought on Saturday and he is at his best: beware Boks, he will slice through you. If he does not operate at his best: either the game will already have been lost, or he will lose it for you..

  • Comment number 7.

    Sorry, dannyjohn not dsnnyjohn!!

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree with the above, this could be a much more open game. The Bok team isn't much weaker though, some of those players should arguably be starting.

    I'm obviously not a Lions supporter but I can say that 'Geech' is massively respected in SA, and I think his approach to the whole Lions concept has been exemplary and it shows in their team spirit. Very different to 4 years ago it seems.

    Here's hoping for a great game, and hopefully we'll be arguing about rugby after Saturday and not nefarious deeds!

    Can't wait.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have truly no idea what Geech is smoking with this starting line up. I can only think it is a way of saying thanks to a few of the players, and giving Vickery a chance to stop his last lions memory being one of letting the whole side down, in which case why not let Ogara play, and for that matter put in a couple scottish so they can have a run out.

    I have really been optimistic against the odds up to now, but can see a humping coming. Flutey doesnt look quite fit to me, Bowe isnt a natural center (though yes he can play there), S Williams.......dont get me started, Monye only effective with great centers inside him, and what the hell did Fitz do to be left out...????

    Most of all the perception that the saffers side is weakened I think is false. What P de V has very cleverly done is realise that by playing a bunch of different (but equally good IMHO) players he is ensuring there is no drop in the passion to win.

    I REALLY hope Im wrong, but I see us losing by 20+, and Im not even sure we will score a try.

    please let me be proven wrong!!

  • Comment number 11.

    I think there's definitely a whiff of giving a run out to a few of the older guys. Joe Worseley's done zero to be anywhere near the match day 22, let alone in the starting XV. The Props, fair enough, the cupboard is almost bare. I'm sure Fitzgerald's time will come again, he's only a kid, I feel a bit sorry for Keith Earls, if you remove the first match he played he's been as good as almost any of the Lions backs.

    I can see us being hammered in this one though. We'll need to completely dominate up front and at the breakdown to win this one. There's just not enough outside 1-10 to win it any other way I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 12.

    No matter what the squad or what country they are from I am behind the Lions. If they go down with a similar performance and effort as last week then I for one will not be slating any of them. It saddened me last week to see comments from some sad little people complaining about the players last week - who threw everything at the Boks. The first 2 tests were close against a very special and very talented Boks Team - who for me will win the Tri-nations. This Tour is a huge improvement on the last tour and even England2003 & Wileszie cannot deny that - despite their evident bias natures.
    With regards to Gethin Jenkins - Wileszie name me a better Loosehead at the moment.
    Good to see Flutey get his chance on Saturday - very talented player and always in my Test 22.
    Hopefully Vickery will make up for the first Test
    I thought Armitage should have gone on the Tour and he would have been a great asset for the final Test given the injuries the Lions have.
    Looking forward to see Hook get his chance - if he comes off the bench. Shane Williams needs a big Test.
    An open Game on Saturday with a Lions narrow Victory - COME ON

  • Comment number 13.

    This game should be a cracker, but IMHO the Lions could be pushing it uphill this time around. The boks will be quicker than the Lions to the breakdown, Worsely, and Williams are just not quick enough about the paddock to contest it with Brussow, Kankowski and Smith on the high veldt. I personally can't believe Joe Worsley (there are made the tour and now he is starting a test and Flutey and Bowe will really have their work cut out. Shane Williams is a finisher so I don't think his selection is controversial given the options. The Lions need to gain an edge up front and slow the game down somehow, they need a bit of mongrel this time around. Unfortunately the Springboks have loads of motivation thanks to all the whinging and moaning about peripheral things not to do with the game both by the media and by some of the players (seriously, some of the players need to concentrate on the rugby and put a sock in it), not to mention not being given any credit for their wins. Nobody in the Lions team should give 2 seconds thought to what the opposition coach has to say, or to misdemeanours that happened on or off the pitch, play the game, shake the hands of the winners and give it everything on Saturday.

  • Comment number 14.

    Very downbeat blog! I hope the Lions don't feel this pessimistic about the chances of winning the game - or the point in playing it in the first place.

    This is a Lions Test match against the world champions. Never mind the dead rubber nonsense. This is as live as it gets for a player from the British Isles. I agree with earlier posters that this is a stronger, not weaker, South African side, but Geech's omission of Shane Williams robbed the Lions not only of one of the most clinical finishers in the world, but also the one player who had the Indian sign over his opposite number - leaving Habana on his jacksie and outscoring him 2-0 last time they met. Geech has put that right this time, and also put the future starter Hook on the bench - both decisions that should have been made a week ago.

    You're only as good as your last game. Win on Saturday and the Lions can remember an end to a season when they showed the South Africans that NH rugby is alive and kicking.

  • Comment number 15.

    "You're only as good as your last game."

    Which is why Shane Williams didn't make the first two Tests. You can't have it both ways.

  • Comment number 16.

    Looking forward to a cracking game of Rugby!

    Go Springboks...

  • Comment number 17.

    Traffic has ground to a screaming halt on Bryns' blog. I guess there is about as much interest in this final test as there is in the All Williams sisters final at SW19.
    Here is hoping for some strong officiating on this game, as it has obviously been lacking throughout this tour. And a little tact and decorum from one PDV in the pre and post match press conferences.

    The selection seems a little poor but I guess there are a lot of players who gave everything last week and this is a chance for some guys to show what we have been missing.

    one last time and rather wearily too;

    Lions lions lions...

    Roll on the Aussies...

  • Comment number 18.

    even if we win .. rugby has been the loser .. though that bullyboy rugby had finished now that its a proffesional sport and the lions have played like proffesionals and have been bullied out of the test series the ref s have been weak eye couging look at the law book straight red card .. what was the ref thinking and that shoulder charge on adam jones was a disgrace
    the main difference between the lions and the boks is they were prepared to cheat to win were to honest in the second test they knew they were losing up front so they did something about it .. maybe we should of kicked the beast off thge field in the first test

  • Comment number 19.

    No such thing as a dead game in rugby, every lion and bok out there will want to win this one. Hey the Lions went to N.Z. when the all blacks were best in the world by a long shot and Woodward didnt have a clue. The Saffers are the best in the world right now, and yet the Lions have competed and could be 2 up in series. We should be proud of this sqaud and management team, who have put the credability back into the Lions tours.
    There is no other sporting event in the world where up to 30,000 supporters follow a team for 3 weeks solid no matter what the results are. Long live the Lions ethos and lets start planning for Aus.

  • Comment number 20.

    OMG...... You people are not well... how could you have been 2 wins up? ai ai... We'll see tomorow... and if you loose, your media will probably blame other things other than the fact that in ALL of England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, there isn't a team that you can come up with to beat this "second" Bok team... Just O-M-G... is all I can say, after reading this stuff for the past week...

    SOOO MUCH incorrect, unfactual interpretations of a game, that clearly wasn't meant to be won by the Lions.... The 1st Test, we lead by 19-7, and only cause the idiot coatch made "experimental" changes did it lead you into the game, cause we didn't want to make you look bad... O-M-G... Really forget Rugby... Go play football and try being manly...O-M-G.... This is the WORST kind of media reporting I've seen in along time, and we have our fair share of that, but not nearly as bad as this...

  • Comment number 21.

    famoussalfordlad - to answer your question on Hook's inclusion: we simply have no one else. O'Gara is not and never will be a class player. I would never blame an individual for losing a game but he showed naivety of a 20 year old last week.

    I'm confused by the make up of the bench. Surprised D'Arcy isn't there instead of one of the back rows. Shane Williams aside, its as good as we have left. Lets hope we can finish this tour on a high!

  • Comment number 22.

    Top of the head team for 1st Test 2009 vs Aus.......

    1. Jenkins
    2. Hartley
    3. A. Jones
    4. AWJ (c)
    5. Croft
    6. Ferris
    7. Rees
    8. Crane

    9. Care
    10. Hook
    11. Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts
    13. Earls
    14. Bowe
    15. Kearney


  • Comment number 23.

    Go Springboks, this might be the 'second' string but each and every individual player could easily have started in any of the two previous tests. It will be nice to put the unsavoury incidents of last week from both teams behind us, and once again focus on the 80 minutes.

    Hook on the bench is about one week too late, his versatility in the backs could have prevented the Lions collapse at Loftus.

    Springboks to win by at leats ten points.........

  • Comment number 24.

    Unbelievable!!!!!! Games for the boys! Wasps supporters must be as stunned as anyone to have 4 players in the starting XV! Suppose it helps when McGeechan and Edwards are about. Just waiting for the Breaking news that Dallagio and Lewsey have been drafted in as late replacements on the bench!! A case of mis-placed loyalty and as a result we're gonna get h*mped by a fairly average Boks team. Aussies for the Tri-nations by a mile.

  • Comment number 25.

    #18 - moleywales
    Wind your neck in. Lions have been beaten by a better team over the last couple of tests. Admittedly it's been extremely close but the Saffers have had the edge in both games (more so in the 1st test than the second)and no amount of whinging about discipline is going to change that.
    I (as most other people would) agree that Burger should have got a red card and that Botha should have been penalised and carded (although he hasn't been the only one to 'clear out' like that in this series) but constant carping about past incidents just makes you sound bitter and a bad loser
    P.S. Speaking of bullyboy tactics - have you seen the footage of Sheridan 'manhandling' Bekker. If not I recommend you check out Youtube. The lions aren't whiter than white themselves..

  • Comment number 26.

    For all those Lions that claim Botha is a thug....please read the link below. Hope thios puts some of the Lions supporters back in their box as they clearly don't understand the rules....

  • Comment number 27.

    famoussalfordlad - i think hook is in line because he's played well on tour.

    it also fair to say that britain and irelend are not awash with proven test level 10s - S Jones and ROG have delivered at test level over time (ok I know RoG had a shocking 10 mins, but he has largely done it at test level over time) - after this pair, it is slim pickings in terms of proven performers - Goode? Cipriani? Whoever plays 10 for Scotland? Wilko injured sadly

  • Comment number 28.

    Glad to see no one is backing Ronan O'Gara for any place close to the starting line up.

    Can't see us winning this one I'm afraid. Competitive, defensive pack, but unfortunately not enough class outside. Coupled with an extremely mobile Boks team and probably a better back line on form than the 1st choice team. Can't help but thinking that Joe Worsley has been picked to do a demolition job on Kankowski et al. Very glad to see Hook on the bench - only wish he was there last week instead of O'Gara.

    Happy also to see Phil Vickery have a chance to get his own back on 'The Beast'.

    Good luck Lions.

  • Comment number 29.

    There are a few interesting selections in there. I'm sure some of the Lions who played last week are feeling it and there was definitely a slight drop in performance from Croft - but I can't see Worsley being half as mobile in attack around the field.

    Hopefully a few Lions will go and prove themselves in their final swan song but I'd question whether this is likely to be Andrew Sheridan's last Lions tour?? - he's a fair bit younger than the likes of Vickery and Shane and Martin Williams.

  • Comment number 30.

    Hope there's more energy on the pitch on Saturday than there is on this discussion board.

    Selections seem a little strange. Largely Vickery and Worsley. Fair to give Vicks another go but it's the sword of damaclees (Sp?) selection because if it goes wrong Geech's fine reputation will be a little tarnished. Glad Flutey's got a chance. I also think that Bowe and Monye have worked very well together over the tour and I'll be interested to see if those two team up now Bowe's in the centre. Hurragh for Hook on the bench been saying that all along.

    By my reckoning of the original tourists only DOC, Powell, Blair and Earls have not had a taste of match day 22. I guess they've formed team Castle Lager and are now joined by ROG, Fitz, Darcy, Jones, Payne et al. I guess they're spoofing like champions, drinking like kings and the single ones ... like rabbits. Given the strong Irish contingent in TCL there's probably been some good sing alongs as well. Proper rugby tour!

  • Comment number 31.

    The Lions are now going for an all out offensive '#hit or bust' This is why Shane Williams is in the team. Yes he has not been on form or is it he has not been given the distribution of a fluent open style game? Either way its worth a gamble on someone who can turn a game. Also thats why Hook is on the bench, plus hes a great utility player.

    This game can go one way or the other...we will either get slaughtered or we will slaughter the Boks....we have nothing to lose!

  • Comment number 32.

    Dai Happy - I'm a brit, but i do agree with most of what you say. us lions fans need to move on from the botha incident - i'm kind of happy that he didn't get red, because that would have robbed everyone of what was one of the greatest test contests in recent times

    yes, both tests were close, but somehow, we never seemed as balanced as the boks - i'd say 2-1 boks would be a fair reflection on the series

    as for botha - he is an idiot. i just don't understand what he was thinking. as well as it being a dispicable act, it was in open ground and right by the linesman and cameras - did he not realise he's get spotted?

  • Comment number 33.

    From an SA perspective I agree with previous posters stating that the Boks back line is not a 2nd team backline. In my opinion the centres selected for the 3rd test are the on form players at the moment. Morne Steyn was fantastic in the Super 14 and was pivotal in getting the Bulls the Super 14 title this year, not to mention is 2nd test contribution. Nokwe on the wing is a major threat and has blinding pace. Also on form is Odwa Ndungane ( Sharks) who has impressed during the Super 14 and is JP Pietersen's regular team mate in the Sharks. I hope the Lions are not under estimating these guys as that may have tragic results.

    Here's hoping for another cracking test match on saturday.

    My blood is green....even if I live in the UK :)

  • Comment number 34.

    hopeandrugby........... You have made a valid comments. I am a Saffer and two of my close English mates went back to SA for the second test. What a game.... The Lions are a respected team in SA and the fact that the Springboks won the second test in the last 30 seconds tells you how big the Lions team really are. The Lions fans in South Africa have a ball of a time, cheap beer, cheap food, expensive accommidation and some of the most beautiful girls in the world to look at. I just love the traditions of the Lions and saw them the first time as a very young boy back in 1968 in South Africa and to see 35 000 Lions supporters in SA, that is good for the game. My this tradition carry on. I shall join the Red army for the next tours to NZ and Aussies. They need to be beaten!!!!!!

    My both team have a great game and my rugby be the winner.

    P.S and the Springboks - enjoy the pints this weekend!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    In hindsight, the Lions were the team who were "undercooked" not the Boks. Poor selection for the first test especially the front row, but much improved for the second test.
    I cannot hold out much hope for Saturday, they will be playing at a higher altitude and have lost key personnel.
    They really need longer to gel as a team (and squad) for future tours. Perhaps the 6N should be suspended whenever the next Lions tour comes around ("friendlies" could be arranged against France/Italy and Sothern Hemisphere teams not involved).

    controversial I know

  • Comment number 36.

    As a South African, can I just distance myself from KoosKoekemoer at #20.
    I love the Lions and this has been a spectacle. Roll on Saturday, go the Bokke and long live the Lions.
    (Although I do think you should get your own animals. Maybe you should be called The Badgers or The Foxes. Only kidding!)

  • Comment number 37.

    I have a quick questions for the saffers on here.

    There is a statistic I heard that London is New Zealand's third or fourth largest city after Auckland, Sydney and possibly Christchurch. I live in SW19 and there is a huge saffer community here. Is there a similar statistic for London in terms of most populus South African cities? Just interested.

  • Comment number 38.


    You're glad there's no O'Gara but happy that Vickery gets another chance? A bit inconsistent there don't you think? While I won't attempt to justify his last outing, I will say that on the tour to date he has performed very well especially against the Emerging Boks where he was head and shoulders above Hook. To my mind if Vickery gets to redeem himself then by the same logic so should O'Gara.

    It's pretty clear the make up of the team is being dictated by local loyalties ... Gatland and Edwards pushing for their own Welsh lads and Geech for his Wasps men. I fear the Lions will get tonked. I guess Geech knows his knighthood is gone so what the hell ...

  • Comment number 39.


    "After the brutality of the defining Pretoria Test,"

    Oh dear, more tissues

  • Comment number 40.

    Get in there and do your best.

  • Comment number 41.

    Its been a great tour, and despite whatever KoosKoekemoer may say the lions have played well, and could have won both test so far if they'd tightened up a couple of the basics as neatly as the South Africans had. also, the reference to 'experimental changes': you can only beat what's put infront of you, and the whole lions side is in effect an experiment, with 22 guys who have never all before played in the same team, so what a useless statement that was.

    i look farward to saturday (though i'll be sky+-ing it as im at a charity event) and i sincerely hope that we get this one, just to prove that this tour has been worthwhile as well as massively entertaining!

    Lions forever!

  • Comment number 42.


    " though that bullyboy rugby had finished now that its a proffesional sport and the lions have played like proffesionals and have been bullied out of the test series "


  • Comment number 43.

    VIckery is in to give him an opportunity to save face. It would be really embarrassing for him to be replaced by John Hayes (the only other specialist tighthead) who was not an original tour choice(A mistake in my view as his form was terrific in this year's 6 nations ).I believe it is a mistake to move Bowe to center as he doesn't play there regularly for club and not at all on tour. The logical choice would have been Gordon D'Arcy as he can also cover at wing if necessary (he started his career on the wing and has played much of the past season there for Leinster). Earls or Fitzgerald should have been on the bench at least.

  • Comment number 44.

    Firstly its good to see a lot of realistic comments from Saffers that reflect the respect that the Lions have in SA with only one troll & I'll ignore him!
    I've been disappointed in the Lions selection for both previous tests and we seem to be making similar misjudgements for this one.
    Hook has been very unlucky & if he'd been on the bench last week things would have been different despite the Bok's subs making a huge impact.
    Ellis must be a sympathy selection again - Shane Williams could cover sh if Philips gets injured as on his form thats the only way he should be subbed. The jo-jo selection of Moyne & Fitzgerald must have destroyed both players confidence & I would have liked to see Earls and D'Arcy get 20 minutes at the end.
    Hope Shaw has some juice left after last week and hopefully 'heart' wins over 'head' and Lions get a win!

  • Comment number 45.

    it just occurred to me that if vickery has another bad game against the beast, with j hayes (a.k.a the bull) on the bench, we could have a treat scenario...

    The Beast Vs The Bull

    Tune in on saturday to find out what happens...

  • Comment number 46.

    Hey #18. moleywales .....

    Congratulations on being on being the first in starting the wind up FOOL!

    In case you havent noticed we commenting on Saturday's game.

    Shut up.

  • Comment number 47.

    So moleywales talks glibly of brutal rugby, what planet is he on? you have you little hard man from league to offer the league approach to big "hits" yet most of the big hitters have either landed on their a£$es or concussed themselves by acting like irrational headless chickens. Then you have the uncompromising New Zealan approach with Mr Gatland, which also has not worked considering that 4 of the 5 tries scored against the cream of B&I Lions have come from set pieces. No, Moleywales the problem is one of GUTS. Coaches put the team out that they believe can do the job and at the end of 80 minutes one team wins and one team walks off in second place. Good sports shake hands and look forward to the next challenge, they dont look for every excuse under the sun the validate their inadequacies. The B&I Lions are great players except for the odd token passeger, but the Boks also suffer with this problem, but get on with it.Play the game, take the knocks, but not foul play, and give it the best you have, crying about cheating is infantile as most players "sportsmen" do so which is why we have referees. Hopefully the game tomorrow will be open, fast and exciting and may the best team win, no matter which hemisphere they represent

  • Comment number 48.

    There should be no lack of motivation. Even in losing teh series, to be in the side that wins a lions test match (Remember the last was 8 years ago) is a special thing.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just wanted to echo what PortcullisIrish said - these boards can be a breeding ground for futile nationalistic arguements not based on fact or stated with respect for others - hats off to the Saffers for the respect, honesty and dignity demonstrated on the majority of posts. Same goes for the bulk of UK and Ireland posts - with that in mind, I fail to see how anyone could hint at the final test being a bland affair - there's plenty of passion but it's been good to read some sensible posts on here.

    Kudos ladies and gents!

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi folks, thanks for all your comments.

    Apologies if my blog appeared 'downbeat' (rgh1066 - No 14). I thought I was actualy trying to raise the possibility the Lions might win! Can't help feeling that the Boks have actually strengthened their hand in certain positions this week, and will have a lot of hungry players keen to make a point. But hopefully we'll see the Lions get their attacking game going again despite all the changes and have a cracking game on our hands.

    Re: rosslynrock (no 30), you're not far off. If you exclude Stephen Ferris, Leigh Halfpenny and Euan Murray, who obviously all had to go home injured before we got to the Tests, there are only four players from the original squad who haven't made it into a Test 22 - Keith Earls, Mike Blair, Nathan Hines (not DOC - he came on in the first Test) and Andy Powell. Ross Ford, Harry Ellis and James Hook haven't seen any Test action yet either, but suspect they'll get some tomorrow. If Ford doesn't get on, could it be the first time no Scot has appeared in a Lions Test series, er, ever?

    Re SJBCAPE - I wasn't referring to any of the incidents in the game when I said the Pretoria Test was brutal - merely brutal in the sense of one of the most physically intense encounters I've ever seen.

    Re Hugh1985 (No 29) - Maybe it is a little early to write off Andrew Sheridan's chances of making the next Lions tour. He is 29, so could still be around in four years' time, as Vickery is at 33 for this tour, and of course Simon Shaw at 35. Be interesting to see whether O'Connell (30 in Oct) and O'Driscoll (30 already) are still going strong in 2013.

    I'd wager the next Lions squad will feature plenty of Irishmen, particularly backs - when you consider Kearney, Bowe, Earls, Fitzgerald, Ferris and Heaslip are all 25 or under.

  • Comment number 51.

    Call me pessimistic, but I believe that this will be the most undeserving Lions series whitewash ever. However, I also think the Sprinboks, overall, deserve the series. Jim Telfer in the '97 tour talked about the 2 types of rugby players; honest players and the rest. The rest will blame the ref, the conditions, injuries etc for losing, but the honest players will get on with it and not find excuses. I'm fairly pissed off about key officials' decisions in both games, but the Lions didn't convert the chances they made and made too many mistakes. South Africa took their chances, made less mistakes and admitedly had a bit more luck on their side. Therefore, they deserve to win, although it will be a travesty if the series ends in the same result as Clive Woodward's package holiday 4 years ago.

  • Comment number 52.

    Rugby has gotten a tad boring in the professional era with endless tests (like the tri-nations) and also the'weakened' end of season tours. SO, what a pleasure watching such a riveting series as the Lions Tour! Truly the pinnacle of a player's career and the majority of supporters have had respect and affinity for the opposing team which is what distinguishes us from purely footie supporters.
    powerRugbyG - good point: this will certainly NOT be a dead game. Can't wait! May the most entertaining team win!

  • Comment number 53.

    Re:22 Orange_Head

    That's a fair team, but the Scots are conspicuously absent again. Having grown up in the glory days of the Lions (and Wales) in the 70's, I remember the fantastic players Scotland had at that time - Irvine, McGeechan, Mighty Mouse, Broon of Troon, etc. The Lions wouldn't have been nearly as successful without them.

    As a Welshman, I sincerely hope that the likes of Max and Thom Evans, Strokosch, Murray, Cussiter, etc. are fighting for test places in Australia....we need them, not at the expense of any other country, but we need to choose from a set of 4 vibrant teams if we are going to be successful

  • Comment number 54.

    Jobs for the boys and to much sentiment, what did croft do to get dropped and replaced by Worsley (who has been insignificant on tour)and they can wash it away with the old "we need fresh legs" excuse these guys are professional athletes.

    Mike Blair? why call him up for the squad? Phillips and Ellis have dominated play time and again you can say Blair was off form this season - so why take him?

    Playing 5 forwards on the bench and 2 backs? MADNESS we lost our two centres last week and I suspect within the first 20mins this week Bowe who i doubt is 100% fit will be replaced by Hook. Is Geech gonna hope that the other 6 backs remain strong for 80+ mins.

    You know I see Croft coming in as Inside centre before the end of the game.

    My prediction SA 37 Lions 9 at least a 25 point whitewash and all because of favorites and sentiment.

  • Comment number 55.

    Meaningless selections for a meaningless game.

    Shots at redemption for Vickery, Monye and S. Williams.

    Last chance to start a Lions Test for M. Williams and Worsley.

    Fair play to O'Connell, Jones, Phillips, Bowe and Heaslip for carrying on.

    Kudos to Kearney, Rees, and Shaw for showing everyone they were good enough after all.

    Sheridan and Flutey? Must feel a little like the last kid picked in the park game. But a chance for them to shine too.

    Well done to all the tourists, the attitude has been great!

  • Comment number 56.

    I actually typed out a masive rant here, then deleted it

    I may as well state from the start Im an Irishman, but I honestly think that only taints my opinion a bit (honest enough to say it taints a little)

    But serously, wtf?? Vickery for a start, actually I would play him, but only if I was convinced of a loss, as I think he might be able to play himself out of the horrible memory, wich he doesnt deserve. Mind you how long did he f up for and how long did ROG. And yes I do support ROG, I thougt he should have started the last game, but I was very wrong, only because Joes was awesome! He played like a champ, as did all the lions that day. Im not doing this arguement again but look at the replay of ROGs eye, he was FUBARed! And wait til the six nations, he will start, and they will win....I think and what the hell Im Irish so that is in my blood! As Im sure is the same for England/Wales/Scotland

    Team shuld have Hayes, DOC, Wallace, Darcy, Fitz starting, and Earls on the bench. Couldnt justify ROG in the 22 as much as Id like to, he f'd up, and Hook is the man for the job now.

    Team looks a bit like a scrath side now. Please lets hope they upset the form book!!

    Anyway, cant see this team anywhere winning but I will be 100% behnd them!!

    Ps love to go to England Ireland for a few pints of anyone has the opportuntity ;-)

  • Comment number 57.

    Ps ...that might have turned into another rant..sorry!!

  • Comment number 58.

    Due to the series of injuries Vickery's choice was by default rather than by design. However, I don't think his comment about having Shaw behind him instead of Alun-Wyn Jones shows that he has realised the situation or has taken responsibility for his part in the 1st test. Let us not forget that in the first test when Jones replaced Vickery he still had Alun-Wyn Jones was still behind him; but what a transformation. Sadly I feel that Vickery does not have the technique to repeat that awe inspiring scrum early in the second test and thus unless the referee shows pity on him the foundation will crumble.

    The coaching staff should have been as brave in their selection as they are asking the players to be on the pitch. Even a blind pigeon could see that the best second row combination is Shaw and Jones and they should be allowed to take their rightful place together.

  • Comment number 59.

    The main reason Jones and Croft aren't playing is that whilst they're skilful tall rangy athletes they lack that extra power and destructive capability - key ingredients of a No 4 & 6 - especially against an aggressive BOKS pack.

    That lack of power cost us the 1st test - it wasn't down to Vickery 100% as we'll see today.

    Worsley is a powerful destructive 6, a counterbalance to a flyer at 7. If anyone doubts that fact take a look at his complete nullifying of Roberts in the 6N.

    POC hasn't set the field alight but then neither has Matfield. Both are class operators though.

    I think this will be tougher than the 1st 2 tests cos were up against some hungry BOKS who as '2nd string' players have points to prove.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hats off to the Lions and a special word to Vickery,Monye and Williams. Took a lot of criticism, some from me but stood up to the task today with all others. I don't think there was a weak link. Fair play to O'Connell and despite much stick on this blog, John Hayes never took a backward step.

    Roll on 2013. Hope to be thre.


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