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Winds of Change For The High Veldt ?

21st June 2009 By Munster Rugby

Winds of Change For The High Veldt ?

"Our concentration really lapsed over the full 80, we took the foot off the gas, our kicking game went down the toilet in the last 20 minutes and we didn’t really get out of our half too much.

"Our concentration really lapsed over the full 80, we took the foot off the gas, our kicking game went down the toilet in the last 20 minutes and we didn’t really get out of our half too much.

That was Springboks captain John Smit’s summation of the first Test in Durban, a game that the home side looked to have comfortably in their grasp until two late tries had them clinging on for dear life.

And they might not have done if – after Sprinboks coach Peter de Villiers had hauled off his more influential figures – Ugo Moyne had held onto the ball as he crossed the line for what looked a certain try with a little over ten minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the tourists, replacement Morne Steyn managed to knock the ball from Moyne’s clutches, the second time in the game Moyne had been denied what looked a certain try.

Coach de Villiers’ match management will be seriously questioned after he began to empty his bench with his side in a a comfortable 26-7 lead. The warning signs were there that when the Lions did manage to get the ball they had in Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts and Tommy Bowe to a lesser extent, the wherewithal to flitter this Sprinboks defence.

So whether it was a case of as Smit claims, South Africa lifting the foot off the pedal or the Lions simply getting their game together, remains to be seen. However, it would appear there will be one or two from both sides who will not remain.

For the Boks, centre Adi Jacobs will almost certainly make way for Jaque Fourie while Jacobs’ Sharks clubmate Stefan Terblance might look to be an option at full back for Francois I’m-not-mad-about-high-dropping-balls Steyn while Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, Bakkies Botha and Heinrich Broussow can plan on been needed for the full 80 minutes.

McGeechan and Co will not want to make wholesale changes but Adam Jones will surely start ahead of Phil Vickery. There is also a case to be made for Matthew Rees ahead of Lee Mears while Donncha O’Callaghan should continue on from where he left off on Saturday – Packing down with Paul O’Connell.

In the backs Luke Fitzgerald will be considered for Moyne, out-half Ronan O’Gara for Stephen Jones while Robert Kearney did more than enough (supreme fielding) to make him a viable alternative to Lee Byrne.

The best informed comment suggests that if the Lions didn’t win the opener they could’t win the series. Last Saturday we saw the Lions backline shatter their Boks counterparts on several occasions and with a fair degree of ease.

And we saw little or nothing of even the semblance of a cutting edge from the Springboks backline.

So then its a question of O’Driscoll, Roberts & Co. getting the ball and of course thats down to O’Connell & Co (not to mention a certain Matfield, Botha etc).

If the Springbok pack needed this game and if they have more in the tank as they believe they have then, based on that opening 60 minutes there’ll be trouble in paradise.

But one thing Saturday showed was that if the Lions can achieve close to parity up front, they have the stamina and the firepower to level the series.

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