Lions boost scrum in bid to stop Beast

2009-06-27 00:00

JUST a week ago Tendai Mtawarira bent and buckled tighthead Phil Vickery and played a major role in the Springboks winning the first Test but today the Beast will find he is the target at Loftus as the desperate British Lions attempt to keep the series alive.

The lessons of the first Test, and who has learnt most from the Boks’ narrow 26-21 win, will decide today’s contest. The Lions were shaken and stirred by the Springboks’scrummaging and the strength in their mauling but they are confident they can defuse the power of the South African pack today.

The Springboks, in turn, have been working on their vulnerable defence while their ill-conceived use of the reserve bench will surely not be repeated.

Beast Mtawarira, the Lions believe, holds the key to the scrum after he destroyed Vickery and all week they have been planning to tame the Sharks loosehead.

Adam Jones has replaced Vickery and hooker Matthew Rees is also included to complete an all-Welsh front-row.

Jones replaced Vickery in the second half at King’s Park and knows what to expect.

”Everyone can see he is a big strong bloke. He hasn’t been playing there that long so I will have to pull any tricks out of the bag to stop him pushing me backwards.

”I need to back my technique, back my ability. I have got over any demons in the scrum I had in the past and I have played against him before,” said Jones.

Vickery is looking to Jones to take some revenge after being so badly upstaged by a relatively inexperienced newcomer.

”Phil told me to go out there and be sure I stuff him,” Jones added.

The Lions have also added the heavy Simon Shaw to the second row and the forward exchanges seem certain to be even more physical than they were in the first Test.

“We know we will have to step up our performance,” said head coach Ian McGeechan. “We have to ensure we again take the game to the opposition and are more accurate in taking our opportunities,” he added.

The Lions lost in Durban because their scrum was dismantled and heavily penalised in the first half, and because they failed to finish off a half-dozen promising attacks.

The Springboks almost lost because their backline defence was poor, they tired badly and they were thrown into a state of confusion by a rush of late substitutions.

They have worked on their defence this week, but unless they are up in the faces of the Lions, and contain their midfield of Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll, they will lose.

But that will only be possible if their forwards secure some momentum and allow their backs to defend – and attack - on the frontfoot.

The lack of the Boks’ match conditioning was also a factor in Durban and it remains a concern today.

The success or failure of the 2009 British Lions will be decided over 80 minutes of rugby this afternoon but the Springboks’ attacking play, never a factor in Durban, could prove the surprise packet today.

TEAMS (15-1)

South Africa: Francois Steyn; JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger; Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha; John Smit (capt), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Deon Carstens, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Heinrich Brussow, Jaque Fourie, Morne Steyn.

British Lions: Rob Kearney (IRL); Tommy Bowe (IRL), Brian O’Driscoll (IRL), Jamie Roberts (WAL), Luke Fitzgerald (IRL); Stephen Jones (WAL), Mike Phillips (WAL); Jamie Heaslip (IRL), David Wallace (IRL), Tom Croft (ENG); Paul O’Connell (IRL, capt), Simon Shaw (ENG); Adam

Jones (WAL), Matthew Rees (WAL), Gethin Jenkins (WAL)

Replacements: Andrew Sheridan (ENG), Ross Ford (SCO), Alun Wyn Jones (WAL), Martyn Williams (WAL), Harry Ellis (ENG), Ronan O’Gara, (IRL), Shane Williams (WAL)

Referee: Christophe Berdos (FRA)

Kick-off: 3 pm.

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