Springboks vs Lions: Players to watch (Round 2)

SARugbymag.co.za looks at the players to watch as the Springboks and British & Irish Lions face off in the potentially decisive second Test of the series in Cape Town on Saturday.

Jasper Wiese

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has made the brave call to hand Wiese his first start in a Springbok jersey and drop Kwagga Smith to the bench for the second Test.

In the first Test, the Lions definitely targeted Smith under the high ball and got plenty of joy out of it, forcing him into handling errors as their chasing pack simply outmuscled him whenever he gathered the ball.

Nienaber subsequently admitted that the Springboks got their tactics wrong in this regard and that Smith was “hung out to dry” as the weakest link in the Springbok pack.

The Lions probably won’t get as much dominance against the physically superior Wiese, a good 15kg heavier than Smith. However, Wiese does have a tendency to walk the line when it comes to his discipline, especially flying into the breakdown.

There will be plenty of pressure on the 25-year-old, but having the experience of Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit alongside him should help.

Frans Malherbe

In another call that the Springbok coaches probably got wrong in the second half of the first Test, Malherbe was part of the front-row unit brought off the bench at half time.

As Squidge Rugby pointed out in his analysis of the first Test, the Springboks generally like to make their front-row substitutions before a scrum, giving the replacements the opportunity to gain immediate momentum. However, Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff and Malcolm Marx had to wait seven minutes for the first scrum of the second half, and during that time suffered the mental blow of conceding a maul try.

Malherbe was one of the players who had to self-isolate in Johannesburg and was evidently a bit rusty.

However, back in a more-preferred position as the starting tighthead, the ever-reliable player will be counted on to win his battle against the Lions’ Mako Vunipola who, let’s not forget, won a scrum penalty against Malherbe in the latter stages of the second half.

Cheslin Kolbe

Kolbe had one of his quieter outings in the first Test against the Lions. While he was sensational when chasing the Springboks’ box-kicks, he was denied the opportunities to open the game up as the Lions’ defence kept close tabs on him.

The Lions were quite clever in box-kicking down his flank, forcing the Springboks to play to the opposite side, or giving the Springboks slow ball down Kolbe’s side of the field. Whenever the opportunity was there to spread the ball down the right wing, the Lions ensured that the ball never got as far as Kolbe.

This the Springboks would undoubtedly have picked up and tried to rectify going into the second Test.

Chris Harris

One of three changes to the Lions’ starting lineup, Scotland centre Harris has come into the No 13 jersey in place of Elliot Daly, who has dropped to the bench.

In selecting Daly for the first Test, the Lions signalled an intent to go around the Springboks’ rush defence. However, that plan didn’t exactly pan out, as Daly was time and time again met and knocked backwards by either Lukhanyo Am or Pieter-Steph du Toit.

While not as skilled as Daly, Harris presents a far more direct option at outside centre. His defensive reputation will also help the Lions prevent the Springboks from creating as many try-scoring opportunities as they did in the second half.

Post by

Dylan Jack