South Africa v British & Irish Lions: Gatland's touring side to clinch series win

Luke Cowan-Dickie celebrates his try
The British & Irish Lions fought back to win the first Test

The British & Irish Lions won the opening match against South Africa and Simon Mail thinks Warren Gatland's side can clinch the series with a second victory...

"The Lions know they can defeat South Africa after last weekend's turnaround and should start this match much sharper."

South Africa v British & Irish Lions
Saturday, 17:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Lions complete stunning comeback win

The British & Irish Lions took a major step towards a series win over South Africa after edging the opening Test. Warren Gatland's side looked in trouble after trailing 12-3 at half-time. But the Lions produced a rousing fightback to turn the contest around in the second half to win 22-17. The strength in depth of their squad paid off as they punished the Springboks' lack of discipline as the game progressed.

Luke Cowan-Dickie finished off a maul after the break to give the Lions momentum.

Faf de Klerk crossed the line for South Africa but Dan Biggar and replacement Owen Farrell's penalty kicking accuracy was enough to tip the balance in the Lions' favour.

The Springboks were left frustrated after having two tries disallowed though with Chelsin Kolbe penalised for a knock-on and Willie Le Roux adjudged to have been offside by the smallest of margins.

There is no doubting the momentum is with the Lions after their stunning turnaround in the first Test. The Springboks appeared to tire as the game progressed while Gatland's array of talent on the bench was able to come on and make the difference. It will be a huge test of the world champions' mettle to come back from this deficit and win the series.


Gatland has made three changes from the opening win with prop Mako Vunipola replacing Rory Sutherland. Scrum-half Conor Murray is promoted to the side in place of Ali Price while centre Chris Harris comes in for Elliot Daly. Taulupe Faletau is on the bench after missing out on a place in the opener but Liam Williams and Hamish Watson both drop out of the squad.

Springboks under pressure after opening defeat

South Africa frittered away their early lead in the first Test and there are signs the pressure is getting to them. Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has been in combative mode throughout the series and his latest press conference provided another sideshow. Erasmus, who has been accused of setting up a fake social media account to criticise officials, has not been afraid to court controversy and it is perhaps a sign the Springboks are rattled by the Lions.

The hosts make three changes from the team beaten last weekend. Leicester No 8 Jasper Wiese has been brought into the pack in place of Kwagga Smith. South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has also promoted Steven Kitshoff in place of Ox Nche while fellow prop Frans Malherbe replaces Trevor Nyakane. Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse are the only backline players available for the Springboks from the bench.

South Africa have it all to do to turn the series around and all the pressure is on the world champions.

The Springboks appeared to run out of ideas in the first match and their fitness levels looked inferior to the sharper Lions.

Gatland's team will be smelling blood and know this is a huge opportunity to clinch the series and avoid a tense decider next week.

The sheer strength of depth in the Lions' squad could prove decisive with so many game changers to come off the bench. Josh Adams, Williams and Watson cannot even make the squad which emphasises the reserves Gatland can call on. The Lions know they can defeat South Africa after last weekend's turnaround and should start this match much sharper.

Rightly favourites, the Lions can pounce on their opponents again and seal the series win. It would be a surprise though if either team runs away with Saturday's game and the best bet is to side with the Lions at 8/5 to win by no more than 12 points in Cape Town.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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