British & Irish Lions

Boring Boks? 'We're South Africans and it works for us,' says skipper Kolisi

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Siya Kolisi. (EJ Langner/Gallo Images)
Siya Kolisi. (EJ Langner/Gallo Images)

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick were, again, asked to essentially defend the Springbok style of rugby in their ongoing series against the British & Irish Lions on Friday.

The series is tied at 1-1 heading into Saturday's finale after two brutal Tests at Cape Town Stadium.

The tourists won the first Test 22-17 before, last weekend, the Boks bounced back with a 27-9 win after a commanding second-half display that yielded 21 unanswered points and an intensity that matched the 2019 World Cup final against England.

Both Tests were physically brutal with not much in the way of free-flowing, attacking rugby.

The set pieces have been key, while the aerial contest, as expected, has been hugely competitive.

The Lions have persisted with the kicking tactics of Dan Biggar at flyhalf while the Boks, through Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk, have adopted a similar approach.

De Klerk is out of the third Test with injury and will be replaced by Cobus Reinach though not much deviation in playing philosophies is expected.

The collisions will be immense, the breakdown will be paramount, and neither side will give an inch on defence. 

"The aerial contest is not a secret, and we always spoke about it from the beginning, that it's going to be massive in this series. If you go back to 2017 when they [the Lions] played against the All Blacks, it was massive," Stick said on Friday, pointing to how much kicking New Zealand did in the first Test of that Lions series, which ended 1-1.

"It's funny now when some coaches say that the Springboks are playing boring rugby, because of the kicking, where if you go back to that 2017 series, there was a game where the All Blacks had more than 30 kicks, and they won that first game.

"Kicking is part of the game, unless maybe there are new rules that we are not allowed to kick, then we will try something else. I'm looking forward to the aerial contest."

Kolisi, meanwhile, said he took no issues with anybody referring to the current Springbok plan as "boring".

"Not at all. That's why we haven't changed our plans, and we're still playing the same way. That's who we are and we can't run away from that," he said.

"We're South Africans, and it works for us.

"That would be like us going to another team that is winning and then complaining about how they play. We can't do that. Either you join them or learn a few things from them going forward."

Stick was then asked to comment on whether or not the Boks were intentionally looking to slow down games during the series.

"When there is a TMO call, and the refs need more time to make decisions, that has nothing to do with us," Stick said, referring to the first half of the second Test, which took a total of 63 minutes to complete due to the stoppages and TMO decisions.

"When the ball is in play, I think all of our players make sure to give their best and I don't recall one of our players doing anything intentionally to slow the game down.

"People must understand that the TMO is part of the game, so if they need two minutes to make a decision, then they need two minutes. That's not in our control.

"We can control the ball in play and tempo at which we want to play the game.

"If they want to lift the tempo up, then that is their plan. If we want to slow the ball down and make it boring, then we'll do that.

"If the British & Irish Lions want to play touch rugby, then it will be nice for us and they are more than welcome. We're not going to decide what they must do and they will not tell us how to play."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 18:00.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions

15 Liam Williams (Wales), 14 Josh Adams (Wales), 13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Adam Beard (Wales), 20 Sam Simmonds (England), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Finn Russell (Scotland), 23 Elliot Daly (England)

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