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How The Lions Can Beat The Springboks

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How the Lions can beat the Springboks

After suffering their first defeat of this tour to a test-strength South Africa ‘A’ team, we look at what areas they need to dominate in order to beat the current World Champions.

 

Set Pieces

The Springboks pride themselves on having a powerful scrum and dominant line-out. During this tour the Lions have been criticised for not putting down a marker in these key areas. Wednesday’s match was a step forward, with Maro Itoje competing well against Eben Etzebeth in the line-out and Kyle Sinckler fronted up well at scrum time. Wyn Jones also showed promise and Luke Cowan-Dickie showed great intensity and work rate when coming on in the second half. Although it was a significant improvement against South Africa ‘A’, Gatland will still want the Lions scrum and line-out to be more dominant.

 

An Expansive Gameplan

The Lions possess an array of powerful, skilful attacking options and playing an expansive style is one way the Lions can beat the Springboks in the test series. Line breaks will be rare against South Africa’s impressive defence, so making the most of those opportunities is vital. The Springboks might expect the Lions to play in an expansive manner, but defending it is a different story. Having support runners available on the shoulder of attacking players removes this threat of a turnover, making them harder to defend against.

The second half against South Africa ‘A’ also showed that the Lions became more aware of the need to move Springbok defenders around to create space and how to vary their attacking lines. The type of game plan that Gatland chooses to employ during the test series will be key. If he chooses to go for a fast, dynamic style of play, then the Lions could really test the fitness of the South Africans, who remember have only played one test match in 2 years. Maintaining a high tempo, rapidly recycling and shifting the point of attack will test their opponents defensive structure and resolve.

 

Competing At The Breakdown

When discussing how the Lions can beat the Springboks, it could come down to their level of physicality at the breakdown. During Wednesday’s “Unofficial Fourth Test” the breakdown was highlighted as an area of attention for the Lions’ coaching staff. Tom Curry (most tackles) and Maro Itoje (most turnovers) were extremely competitive, with Josh Navidi also working tirelessly in defence. However, other Lions players will need to step up all over the field and think about how they can consistently compete with South Africa in this area. Two-time Lions captain, Sam Warburton, feels this is down to mindset and can be fixed before the First Test in Cape Town, next Saturday. The Lions showed they were more than able of competing at the breakdown during their 2017 test series draw in New Zealand.

 

Aerial Domination

The Springboks have developed a reputation as a team that primarily employs a tactical kicking game to gain territory and get into point scoring positions. This can be seen in South Africa’s performances in the 2019 World Cup, especially against Wales and England in the semi-final and final, respectively. Faf de Klerk and Hendre Pollard are a left-foot/right-foot kicking combination, with full-back, Willie le Roux being a threat from deep. There is little chance of the Boks changing their approach for this series, as they have played so little rugby since their victory in the RWC final. The problem is how can the Lions compete with such repeated aerial bombardments?

The solution is that Lions need to come up with their own kicking game to counter this tactic. However, kicking aimlessly to a back three of le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi would create even greater problems. Kolbe, was referred to as “The Messi of Rugby”  by Ronan O’Gara and is unquestionably one of the best attackers in world rugby who can change a match single-handedly. A carefully planned and well executed kicking game is needed for the Lions to be competitive in this test series.

 

We hope you enjoyed this article ‘How The Lions Can Beat The Springboks’. Do you think the British & Irish Lions will beat South Africa? Let us know!

 

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Drew is a lifelong sports fan from Bristol who currently lives and works in Hong Kong. He has a keen interest in football, rugby, cricket, F1 and NFL.

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