South Africa v British & Irish Lions: Springboks to power their way to series win

Makazole Mapimpi
Makazole Mapimpi scored a try during South Africa's win over the Lions in the second Test

South Africa host the British & Irish Lions in this weekend's series decider and Simon Mail is expecting the match to be decided by fine margins...

"South Africa's defensive strength is a major advantage for the hosts with the world champions conceding just three tries in their last nine Tests."

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

Lions fail to clinch series after poor second-half

The British & Irish Lions series with South Africa is on the line in this weekend's deciding third Test after the Springboks crushed their opponents in Cape Town. Warren Gatland's tourists led 1-0 going into last weekend's match and appeared on course to clinch the series after edging into a 9-6 half-time lead. But the Lions were resoundingly beaten in the second half as South Africa won 27-9 to take the momentum into the decider.

The world champions faced a major test of their resolve but overwhelmed the Lions after the break, scoring 21 points without reply.

A brilliant try created by Handre Pollard and finished supremely by Makazole Mapimpi established control before Faf de Klerk's chip was adjudged to have been grounded by Lukhanyo Am.

It was a completely one-sided half as the Springboks dominated the ball in the air and the kicking contest.

Gatland must rally Lions

Gatland has a big job on his hands to lift the Lions after their heaviest defeat since the tour of New Zealand in 2005. The Lions had no answers to the Springboks in Cape Town as the tourists were unable to mount an attacking threat. Their lack of creativity has forced a serious rethink heading into the decider.

The Lions took advantage of South Africa's lack of sharpness in the opening match to win 22-17. It was the opposite of the second Test as the Lions mounted a second-half comeback to prevail. But there is no doubt the Springboks looked much better for the extra run-out and their powerful physical approach and lineout expertise came to the fore as they levelled the series.

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Gatland has unsurprisingly revamped his team with six changes from the team well beaten last weekend. Liam Williams comes in at full-back in place of Stuart Hogg and scrum-half Ali Price starts ahead of Conor Murray. Wing Josh Adams, who scored eight tries in the first three matches of the tour, is brought into the backline.

Dan Biggar keeps his place at fly-half despite only completing three passes in the second Test. Wyn Jones makes his Lions Test debut as he starts in the front row alongside hooker Ken Owens.

Hosts have momentum

South Africa make two enforced changes for Saturday's third Test. Scrum-half De Klerk is ruled out after picking up an injury in the last match with his place taken by Cobus Reinach.

Lood De Jager, who made such an impact from off the bench in the Springboks' victory, comes into the pack with Pieter-Steph Du Toit unavailable due to his shoulder injury. The game has come too soon for Duane Vermeulen despite the forward returning to training after ankle surgery.

The Lions have gambled by remoulding their team after the heavy defeat and the changes could inspire them. But South Africa have the momentum and their power-based game has gone through the gears after early rust in the series.

Springboks are deserved favourites

South Africa's defensive strength is a major advantage for the hosts with the world champions conceding just three tries in their last nine Tests. This could give them the edge and the Springboks are backed to win the series, although it is likely to be closer than last week's victory.

The Lions will come out fired up but South Africa can wear them down and grind out a win in the decider by up to 12 points at 7/5.

The lack of free-flowing rugby has been well documented during the series and it would be a surprise if both teams suddenly changed tack. South Africa's kick-chase game helped them win the World Cup while Gatland is also renowned as a pragmatic operator.

A high-scoring decider looks unlikely with tension expected to heighten the emphasis on defensive strength and tactical kicking. The first two matches both produced under 40 points and this should follow suit. Backing under 41.5 points stands out at 10/11.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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