SARugbymag.co.za looks at the players to watch as the Springboks and British & Irish Lions face off in the third and final Test of the series in Cape Town on Saturday.
Lood de Jager
One of two injury-enforced personnel changes to the Springboks’ starting lineup, Lood de Jager has been promoted from the bench as Pieter-Steph du Toit has been ruled out, with Franco Mostert shifting from lock to flank as a result.
After a rather subdued performance off the bench in the first Test, De Jager was magnificent as a substitute in the second, helping the Springboks turn the tide after going into the break trailing by three points.
It has been an injury run for the 28-year-old lock since the 2019 World Cup final, but he looked close to his best in the second Test, shoring up the Bok lineout and making a number of strong carries forward.
Together with Mostert and Etzebeth, the Springboks should have a strong platform from which to attack the Lions on Saturday.
The second enforced change, Cobus Reinach has replaced Faf de Klerk, who was ruled out of the third Test with a soft tissue injury after pulling up in the second Test.
When explaining why he opted for Reinach ahead of Herschel Jantjies, who has been on the bench in both Lions Tests, Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said the Montpellier scrumhalf was more of a like-for-like replacement for De Klerk.
Reinach has been in good form for Montpellier, helping them claim the European Challenge Cup in his first season with the club. However, the Springbok pack will have to be sharp in protecting him when he opts to box kick, as Lions lock Maro Itoje is a sharp operator when it comes to looking for the charge-down.
Given De Klerk’s quality so far into the series, there will be plenty of pressure on the 31-year-old to execute both his passes and kicks properly.
Perhaps the surprise selection of the third Test, veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn has been recalled to the bench as the Springboks have reverted to a more conventional five-three split between their forward and backline replacements.
Steyn has arguably been the form domestic flyhalf since returning to the Bulls from France. Under Jake White, Steyn has provided the Bulls with some much-needed experience and temperament, while his near-flawless execution was key in helping the team claim the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup double last season.
Of course, Steyn made his name in the 2009 series against the Lions, coming off the bench as a relative rookie in the second Test and holding his nerve to slot the long-range penalty that gave the Boks a series victory.
Should he come on to the field on Saturday, the 37-year-old will join a rare group of players to have faced the Lions twice in their careers. With Nienaber expecting the third Test to go down to the wire, it make sense to invest in someone with Steyn’s experience.
One of a total of six changes to the Lions starting lineup, Josh Adams has replaced Anthony Watson on the right wing.
The Wales speedster is currently the team’s top try-scorer, but surprisingly was not included in either of their match-day 23s against the Springboks. Lions coach Warren Gatland explained that this had to do with mental fatigue as Adams had to watch the birth of his first child on video streaming from Cape Town.
Together with Wales teammate Liam Williams, Adams should not only shore up a Lions back three that struggled against the Boks in the second Test, but also provide a massive aerial threat to the hosts.
Another change to the Lions lineup, Bundee Aki has taken the place of Scotland’s Chris Harris, causing Robbie Henshaw to move to outside centre.
The Auckland-born centre will have a tough task on his hands, containing the driving runs of Bok midfielder Damian de Allende.
He will also be tasked with finding a way around the Springbok defence, which has only conceded one try – from a driving maul – in the first two Tests.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images