It is now or never for the 2009 Lions. Having lost the opening Test of the three-match series against the Springboks last weekend, Saturday’s second Test in Pretoria is a must-win game for Ian McGeechan’s men.
2009 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS TOUR: SECOND TEST: Saturday, June 27
SOUTH AFRICA v BRITISH & IRISH LIONS, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 1)
Team News: Leinster and Ireland’s Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald have been added to the British & Irish Lions team for Saturday’s second Test against South Africa.
Kearney, Fitzgerald, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones and Simon Shaw will all make their starting Test debuts for the Lions when Ian McGeechan’s men try to level the Test series against the Springboks.
The Lions management have made five changes to the team that lost the first Test 26-21 in Durban, with Kearney taking over from the injured Lee Byrne at full-back and Fitzgerald preferred to Ugo Monye on the left wing.
That means Kearney and Fitzgerald will form an all-Irish back-three along with Tommy Bowe who, along with Monye, is the 2009 tour’s joint-top try scorer (four).
Ireland supply seven players to the side, which will be their biggest representation for 62 Lions Tests stretching back to the third Test in South Africa in 1938.
On that occasion there were eight Irishmen in a side that beat the Springboks 21-16 in Cape Town.
Notably, the Lions will line out with an all-Welsh front row on Saturday as hooker Rees and tighthead prop Jones link up with their compatriot Gethin Jenkins at loosehead.
The centre partnership of Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts that did quite an amount of damage in the first Test has been retained, as has the all-Welsh half-back combination of Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips.
Adding his bulk to the second row, 1997 tourist Shaw will scrum down alongside tour captain Paul O’Connell and McGeechan and company have kept faith with the Anglo-Irish back row of Tom Croft, who touched down twice last time out, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip.
In addition, there have been four alterations to the Lions bench. Hooker Ross Ford, prop Andrew Sheridan and winger Shane Williams are new inclusions in the Test 22 and Alun Wyn Jones has dropped down from the starting line-up to take the place of Donncha O’Callaghan.
Commenting on the team selection, head coach McGeechan said: “As a squad the Lions still have everything to play for.
“The players know that the outcome of the Test series comes down to Saturday and they are determined to take the series to a decider in Johannesburg.
“There were many positives to come out of the First Test which we have built upon this week.
“We have made five changes to the starting side but it will not change the way we want to play.
“Both teams will be better for the run last weekend and we know we will have to step up our performance to ensure that we again take the game to the opposition and are more accurate in taking our opportunities.
Meanwhile, Schalk Burger will make his 50th Test appearance for the Springboks on Saturday when he takes to the field in the second Test against the Lions.
Burger returns from a calf injury and has been selected in the place of Heinrich Brussow on the blindside of the South African scrum.
Brussow moves to the replacements bench, with scrum half Ricky Januarie dropping out of the matchday 22.
With Peter de Villiers and his management team opting for a five-two forwards-backs split on the bench, no reserve scrum half has been selected. Ruan Pienaar will provide scrum half cover.
The only other change to the squad that secured the first Test spoils is on the bench, where hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle replaces prop Gurthro Steenkamp.
de Villiers said: “We believe in the abilities of our players and we are confident that they will take things up a few notches on Saturday.
“We are a squad of 22 focused on a common objective, which is to go out and win a Test series against a very good Lions team.
“We know that we will be faced by a Lions team that will be playing to level the Test series and will provide us with a stern test. We must make sure that we are more than equal to the task.”
The combined number of caps in the Springboks’ starting line-up is 617. The squad of 22 has a combined total of 725 caps.
SOUTH AFRICA: Francois Steyn (Sharks); JP Pietersen (Sharks), Adrian Jacobs (Sharks), Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Bryan Habana (Bulls); Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), Fourie du Preez (Bulls); Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), John Smit (Sharks) (capt), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Victor Matfield (Bulls), Schalk Burger (Stormers), Juan Smith (Cheetahs), Pierre Spies (Bulls).
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Deon Carstens (Sharks), Andries Bekker (Stormers), Danie Rossouw (Bulls), Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Morne Steyn (Bulls).
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster/Ireland); Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales), Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England), Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland) (capt), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England), David Wallace (Munster/Ireland), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland).
Replacements: Ross Ford (Edinburgh/Scotland), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks/England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers/England), Ronan O’Gara (Munster/Ireland), Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales).
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)
Assistant Referees: Bryce Lawrence, Vinny Munro (both New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): South Africa to win: 2/7; Draw: 22/1; British & Irish Lions to win: 12/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Rob Kearney (British & Irish Lions) – “When you’re in the 22, it’s fantastic you’re on the bench, but it’s never quite the same. But obviously now what we do in the jersey will be what we’re remembered for.
“I’ve learned to be patient. I spoke to (backs coach) Rob (Howley) last week just after the Test team was picked and he told me the situation I was in, so I knew I was firmly still in with a shot.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be starting, and in my preferred position. It’s great to see so many Irish players into the side too.
“I love playing alongside Luke (Fitzgerald) and Tommy (Bowe), they’re fantastic players and I think especially this season we’ve come through tough moments in some big, high-pressure games. Hopefully that will stand to us.
“There’s obviously a lot riding on this game and the ante has been upped a huge amount, but we have to approach it the same way (as the first Test) and make sure we start off the way we finished last week.
“I think last week we proved in the second half we had the potential to beat the Springboks, so it’s important to get at them from the word go.”
Bryan Habana (South Africa) – “As a ‘Bok side we’re really looking forward to coming to Loftus Versfeld. Having a lot of ‘Boks supporters arriving in their green and gold jerseys is a huge boost and hopefully we can do our country proud, as we did last weekend.
“The second Test is unbelievably huge, it’s a watershed game.
“We have an opportunity to close out the series with one game left, whereas the Lions have a chance to come back into the series.
“We’ll take the win, whether it was by five points, one point or by 50. The first Test was always going to be vitally important.
“We’re professionals and when you get selected to play for the Springboks, no matter where you play, you’ve got to take responsibility and I definitely feel that we have the calibre of players at the moment to take that responsibility.
“I think when you play Test match rugby and especially when you only have a series every 12 years against the Lions, the most important factor is that you make a contribution towards a successful team.
“I think defensively, I was really happy with where I was last Saturday. Like I say, whether I’m scoring tries or making turnover tackles, I think that’s quite important.
“It’s always nice to score tries, but I think when you got a series as massively important as this one, then just winning is probably the most important thing.”
Pre-Match Links –
Slattery Talks Lions And The Second Test