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Expert View: South Africa v Lions

Updated: Wednesday, 24 Jun 2009 12:16

O'Driscoll and Roberts cut the Boks apart in midfield
O'Driscoll and Roberts cut the Boks apart in midfield

by Conor O'Shea

In the end, it was an unbelievable Test match.

Partly, that remarkable final quarter came about because the South Africans - not for the first time - celebrated too early. They brought off all their key players.

To be fair, when the Lions were mauled backwards 30 metres before conceding the second try, it looked like the game was up. As well as that you have to say that until the final quarter, the South African kicking game had taken a lot of the physicality out of the contest.

Fourie Du Preez, Bakkies Botha, John Smit and Ruan Pienaar all went off - though it was interesting to see Pienaar and Smit coming back onto the field for technical reasons.

From the Lions perspective, they were on the wrong side of the referee for a lot of the match and the lineout struggled as well. But the positive is that they managed to turn it around and it is a testament to the squad ethic they have been talking about.

Roberts and O'Driscoll - a huge plus

Another huge plus is that in Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll they had players who were cutting the Springboks to pieces, especially towards the end of the match. Rob Kearney also came in and did very well and Adam Jones made a huge difference and will start next week.

Looking at the scrum, Tendai Mtawira could have been called a couple of times for the way he bound. The Lions must be thinking they should have made the call to replace Phil Vickery sooner rather than late as he had gotten on the wrong side of the ref and that never looked like changing.

There is also no doubt that the South Africans were tired by the last quarter and in that sense, the Lions have missed a great chance. This is the match they were supposed to be undercooked for. They may cope better with the move to altitude and they will have had a full Test and an extra week. However, they will have to tighten up their defence and especially their midfield.

Looking at the series, I do think it was a game the Lions needed to win. I think the Boks will be stronger next week and it might almost have been better for the Lions if they had got their easy win - they have had a wake up call.

For the Lions, it is a matter of taking away the positives, working on the weaknesses and having a go next week.