During the Build-up to the first Test, the British & Irish Lions coaches and head staff used the media to try get in the heads of the Springboks. Although the Lions lost 17-13 to a strong SA "A" side, he still publicly stated that the Lions have dented the "egos" of the Boks. Brave words from a man whose side had just been put to the sword.
There has been a lot of criticism on Erasmus' water boy role on matchday, especially from anyone who supports the Lions and the man at the top, Gatland. One would be able to write books on all the comments he's had about Erasmus. All in an effort to get in the heads of the coaching staff and players I suppose.
We know that Erasmus is taking messages onto the field, what water boy doesn't? How different is Erasmus' role compared to Lions kicking coach, Neil Jenkins? He is also taking messages onto the field. One is a kicking coach and one is the Director of Rugby in South Africa. I don't see the harm in that?
Gatland was without a doubt under pressure last week. The Boks had minimal time training due to a Covid infested squad and had only played one test in 21 months. A Springbok victory under those circumstances, would have been a rugby disaster to the Lions, who have been playing rugby since 2019 without any issues it seems. The fact that they only finished with a 5 point win against a Springbok side who played as poorly as they did in the second half suggests that Gatland still has a good reason to be worried.
Jacques Nienaber has turned to rookie, Jasper Wiese as his starting no.8 for the second test. A brilliant call from the Head Coach. Wiese has the size and strength we need at 8. Kwagga Smith is a good 8 but he isn't as strong in the ruck and contesting for ball. Maybe it was the nerves that did him in on the weekend.
Wiese has been in some incredible form for his club side, the Leicester Tigers. Hopefully he is able to make an impact in the no.8 jersey. He will be up against Jack Conan who had an excellent game for the Lions in their first Test at Newlands. It will certainly be an interesting battle to see who comes out on top.
Finding a suitable starting no.8 to replace Duane Vermeulen has been a challenge for Nienaber. He has decided to relegate Smith to the bench. Kwagga Smith's inability to deal with the high ball has got him caught between a rock and a hard place.
Smith, who has been brilliant in all aspects of his game, was caught off guard when Dan Biggar and Ali Price drilled him with high ball after high ball. The strategy of putting Kwagga Smith under pressure played a pivotal role in the momentum swing that allowed the Lions to fight back from being 12-3 behind to win 22-17 in the second half.
"The reason why we started looking at Jasper was that he was doing well in the Premiership and when you look at how dominant were his stats and his carries," Nienaber said.
Where did the Boks go wrong? We tried to fix something that wasn't broken, we took off a strong front row, where we could've just replaced an injured player and used the bomb squad deeper into the second half. We were shocking under the high ball. The kicking was good but the regathering was not even close to good. Why did we use the same strategy as we did in 2019? Did the coaching staff think that Gatland wouldn't prepare for that? He has had 21 months to work on a strategy that could counter Rassie's kicking game. It doesn't make sense to me. Why would you not come out the blocks firing on all cylinders? New game plan and all! It is so easy to not kick a rugby ball, especially if you are Elton Jantjies, please DONT kick the ball, just pass it.
We have a huge pack of forwards, we need to use them to run at these Lions. We need to make them tired, they must work to get the ball, we cant just knock it on or kick it away. It doesn't make logical sense to kick away your possession, also, you have one of the quickest, most elusive wingers at 14. We need to get Kolbe into space more often. Play with your big forwards and swing it wide to Kolbe because he can find space where there is no space. He is lethal. I have said it so many times, get Morne Steyn on the bench. They are going to use him in the 3rd Test but they will realize they've used him too late.
“The thing is if you’re the water boy running onto the pitch, you gotta make sure that you are carrying the water," - Warren Gatland
Squads for the 2nd Test.
15 Willie Le Roux,14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
British & Irish Lions
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Chris Harris (Scotland), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland) 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Mako Vunipola (England)
16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland) 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Taulupe Faletau (Wales), 21 Ali Price (Scotland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Elliot Daly (England)