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Lions and Boks will both consider changes ahead of Test two

The hosts struggled up front in the first Test last night.

The Lions run out in Cape Town.
The Lions run out in Cape Town.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE BOKS WILL be hurting today. It’s a long time since their forward pack came off second best like they did in yesterday evening’s second half in Cape Town.

It’s a long time since they lost a match too. This was their first Test defeat in eight games, their first since 2019. It won’t sit well.

Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber will back many of their key men to respond with ferocity in next weekend’s second Test in Cape Town, but there’s also no doubt that they will consider changes to their starting XV and bench.

The Lions, despite their victory, may be thinking of a slight shuffle too. 

Warren Gatland will obviously reward his best performers from yesterday with another start, but there is potential for change.

Wyn Jones may be back in the mix after being forced to withdraw from the first Test with a minor shoulder issue. Mako Vunipola was superb off the bench after Rory Sutherland started yesterday’s win, so Gatland may have a tough call to make.

Tom Curry was frustrated to give away three early penalties before his replacement, Hamish Watson, probably should have seen yellow for a tip tackle on Willie le Roux. A big decision on the Lions’ openside lies ahead.

They will also consider a change in their midfield, where Robbie Henshaw and Elliot Daly weren’t fluid together. That is to be expected given they only played 57 minutes together before the first Test, and there is an argument to be made that backing them again for Test two makes sense.

However, Gatland and co. will consider starting the more direct Bundee Aki or Chris Harris in midfield with Robbie Henshaw possibly moving to outside centre. Alternatively, Owen Farrell could come into the number 12 shirt, having come off the bench for Daly yesterday. Farrell’s strong kicking game will appeal to the Gatland. 

Out-half Dan Biggar was forced to go for a head injury assessment late on in yesterday’s game but the Lions will hope to have him fit by next weekend.

Meanwhile, Erasmus will strongly consider mixing up his losing formula.

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kwagga-smith-is-tackled-by-alun-wyn-jones Kwagga Smith struggled for the Boks. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Kwagga Smith had a big chance at number eight in Duane Vermeulen’s injury-enforced absence and did well in the first half before the realities of high-level Test rugby hit home in the second. He was targeted by the Lions in the backfield, where Vermeulen is usually so reliable.

Jasper Wiese is an option at number eight, having come off the bench yesterday, while the Boks could also reshuffle their back row with Pieter-Steph du Toit or Siya Kolisi changing roles.

The Boks pack had a humbling evening and Erasmus will ponder whether Lood de Jager needs to come into the second row for Franco Mostert.

Intriguingly, their first-half front row of Ox Nché, Bongi Mbonambi, and Trevor Nyakane were better than the more high profile second-half combination of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, and Frans Malherbe – who struggled against the Lions. Erasmus and Nienaber have a huge decision there.

It would be a surprise if we see any changes in their first-choice backline, although the Boks will hope to see the likes of Cheslin Kolbe more involved.

Both head coaches face huge selection decisions heading into the second Test, with Gatland aiming to finish the series and the Boks hoping to keep themselves alive in the contest. 

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Murray Kinsella

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