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British and Irish Lions: What Gatland needs for South Africa

The British and Irish Lions complete their final Test against South Africa knowing victory is required in Cape Town to win the 2021 series against the Springboks. Defeat in the last meeting, and a rather mediocre display in the 27-9 reversal meant coach Warren Gatland has been forced to refresh a depleting squad in hopes of winning the series overall. Gatland has made changes including Ken Owens, Josh Adams and Bundee Aki. 

South Africa have been required to make some rotation of their own, with injuries ruling out Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sale Sharks’ Faf de Klerk. Gatland made six changes ahead of the weekend clash, optimising the strength in depth at his disposal.  “The matchday 23 have an incredibly special opportunity in front of them – to seal a Lions series victory in South Africa,” said Gatland. “It doesn’t get much bigger than this and we’re excited by the challenge that faces us on Saturday.

“We’ve no excuses from last week – the Springboks put us under pressure in the second half and deserved the win. We have to be much better than that second-half performance, and I believe we will be.”

There are plenty of options to bet on rugby union when the line-up Gatland has produced is so unpredictable, with so many changes and the introduction of some sporadic players. Here’s how they can beat the Springboks.

Using Ali Price

For the last few weekends supporters and pundits alike have been screaming for Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Ali Price to be in the starting line-up after being dropped to the bench. Many criticised Gatland for implementing a more defensive style – setting up to not be beaten rather than going out to try and win. From an outside perspective many believed the camp could go into tactical sessions looking to contain rather than attack. Now Price looks to return and cement his place as a mainstay in the side. The 28-year-old was one of the best players on the pitch, bringing vast experience in terms of game management as well as communication and breaking up play with his firepower, even when deployed from his substitute role as of late. If Price can be used effectively, he can link between the forwards comfortably and help prevent the threat of Handrè Pollard, who has been brought into the South Africa squad to provide additional cover.

Stopping the Springboks

It Is no secret that South Africa go into this one as the favourites. Their forwards dominated the last game, allowing them to make victory look so comfortable, especially their noteworthy performance in the second half – probably the best example of quality rugby on display so far throughout the tour. Those who have missed out so far for the Lions and are finally being given their chance may come resolute and hungry for gametime, but do they simply have the quality to match their opposition? Sadly not. Gatland will have to devise an effective gameplan to prevent a repeat of last week’s unanimous Springboks victory, with Sharks winger Makazole Mapimpi being afforded far too much time and space. If this happens again, we see nothing but another comfortable win for South Africa.

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