The British and Irish Lions coach, quite rightly, wanted stronger opposition than the three weakened teams they faced because of the national call-ups in especially the case of the Sharks and to a lesser extent the Lions.
The B&I Lions will now have that desired stronger opposition in the rescheduled match against the SA ‘A’ side in what will be an interesting match at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday (20:00).
While the Lions are still feeling their way about what their best team is after three runs against below par opposition, the match will give most of South Africa’s best players a chance to make up for the cancelled second test fixture against Georgia last Friday night and with the Covid disruption in their ranks.
They need some match practice, and this is an ideal opportunity, even with some of their best still in isolation.
It will be an interesting as the result is not the main aim or the most interesting aspect.
It is rather a case of how both sides will endeavour to win without giving away too much of their on-field secrets other than playing a straightforward game of rugby.
Will the ‘A’ side go all-in in the scrums to get the edge ten days before the first test to prove a point? Or will they simply concentrate on cohesion and timing?
Will the Lions keep on running as much as they can to, firstly, fine-tune their skills, and secondly as a wily exercise to possibly try and lead Jacques Nienaber (still in Covid isolation) and Rassie Erasmus up the garden path??
And will the opposing coaches read anything into whatever is dished up by the opposition while sticking to their own fine-tuning?
Gatland and selectors want to see more
Lions coach Warren Gatland insists that they are still uncertain of their best team. Quite believable, as not much could be read into the three big wins against weakened teams to date.
Gatland says he would like to see for more performances that will pose a challenge for his selectors.
He expects the home side to physically take them on really turn it on in the scrums
Lukhanyo Am leads SA 'A'
Nienaber named a strong South Africa ‘A’ team, captained by Lukhanyo Am, for the clash with the Lions at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday, reports SA Rugby Communication.
For the South Africans, with 18 of the 33 World Cup winners in the ‘A’ team or on the bench, plus a few old hands like Morné Steyn, Coenie Oosthuizen and Rynhardt Elstadt to further boost the side with some exciting youngsters, this is an opportunity to blend as they would’ve hoped to do in the second cancelled test against Georgia.
A sort of practice game, as it were …
Eben Etzebeth has recovered from the rib injury sustained against Georgia, while former Cheetahs hooker Joseph Dweba, now with Bordeaux, is the only uncapped played in the starting team while Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, former Blue Bulls and Bulls lock and since 2016 with on the extended bench.
“We’re pleased to be able to name a quality team with a number of experienced players despite the challenges in the last week, which included the entire squad being confined to their rooms as part of the team’s preventative self-isolation measures,” said Nienaber.
“We may have lost our captain Siya (Kolisi), but there is a good leadership core within this group with the likes of Morné, Willie (le Roux), Eben (Etzebeth), Trevor (Nyakane) and Steven (Kitshoff), among others, whose experience will be invaluable in a match against a quality British & Irish Lions outfit.
“Players such as Joseph and Nicolaas will also get their first taste of running out in the green and gold at senior level in what will mark a memorable occasion in their careers and we are excited to see them showcase their skills.”
The five players who started against Georgia are Willie le Roux (fullback), Pieter-Steph du Toit (flank), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth (both locks) and Trevor Nyakane (prop); all World Cup winners.
Other heroes of Japan 2019 in the starting team are prop Steven Kitshoff, Faf de Klerk at scrumhalf, wings Cheslin Kolbe and Sbu Nkosi and centres Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.
Jasper Wiese (No 8), who made his Test debut against Georgia, joins Marco van Staden and Du Toit in the loose trio, while Rugby World Cup winners among the extended 10-man replacement squad are Vincent Koch (prop), Kwagga Smith (loose forward), Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf), Elton Jantjies (flyhalf), Jesse Kriel (centre) and Damian Willemse (utility back). The coach is set to make the final call on which players will serve as the replacements in the next two days.
Nienaber has handed over the coaching reigns to Erasmus as he continues to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. Nienaber said: “Rassie has been hands on in our coaching and team selection meetings, he helped formulate our team structures, and he knows the players and coaching staff well, so it’s not an issue to adapt.”
The Springboks arrived in Cape Town on Sunday, while the players and team management who are in self-isolation will complete their mandatory isolation period in Johannesburg before making the trip to Cape Town.
The match kicks off at 20:00 on Wednesday and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
South Africa ‘A’ –
Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am (capt.), Damian de Allende, Sbu Nkosi, Morné Steyn, Faf de Klerk, Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marco van Staden, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Joseph Dweba, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements (from): Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Vincent Koch, Nicholaas Janse van Rensburg, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse, Kwagga Smith, Elton Jantjies.
British and Irish Lions –
Anthony Watson, Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Bundee Aki, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray (capt.), Taulupe Faletau, Tom Curry, Josh Navidi, Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Ken Owens, Wyn Jones. Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Adam Beard, Tadhg Beirne, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Elliot Daly.
Venue: Cape Town Stadium
Kick-off: 20.00 (19.00 BST; 18.00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)