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Preview: Lions look to wrap up Test series against Springboks

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Preview: Lions look to wrap up Test series against Springboks

The Lions team huddle before they run out

The British & Irish Lions stand on the precipice of history as they look to seal a memorable series win against the Springboks.

Last time out, the tourists pulled off an impressive fightback in the first Test to beat the reigning world champions in their own backyard.

Trailing 12-3 at the break, Warren Gatland’s men came roaring back in the second half to secure a memorable 22-17 win at Cape Town Stadium.

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And after their comeback heroics, they could seal a first series win in South Africa with a game to spare when the two teams lock horns once again on Saturday.

TEAM NEWS

The Lions have made three changes to the starting line-up that beat the Springboks last week.

Scotland’s Chris Harris comes into the side for his Test debut for the Lions, with England centre Elliot Daly dropping to the bench as a result.

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Lions make three changes to starting XV for second Test

Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray and England prop Mako Vunipola have also been handed starts by Gatland, coming in for Ali Price and Rory Sutherland, respectively.

Following his miraculous recovery from a dislocated shoulder, Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones captains the side, winning his 11th successive Lions Test cap.

A view of the British Irish Lions team huddle after the game

And Jones will be partnered again by the ever-impressive England lock Maro Itoje, who was instrumental in helping the Lions defeat the Boks in game one.

Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau is also added to the bench.

Like the Lions, South Africa have also made three changes, with props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe coming into form a new-look front row.

Leicester Tigers No.8 Jasper Wiese also replaces Kwagga Smith in the back row while the Springboks have opted for a 6/2 split on the bench too.

ONES TO WATCH

Chris Harris’ journey to Lions Test starter has been a bit of whirlwind adventure.

The 30-year-old Gloucester centre made his international debut in 2017 and has been an ever-present member of the Scotland squad since.

He was particularly instrumental in helping Gregor Townsend’s Scotland secure historic away wins against England and France in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations.

Chris Harris and Conor Murray

Gatland will hope Harris can bring his defensive vision to the Lions midfield alongside Robbie Henshaw, shutting down his dangerous opposite number Lukhanyo Am.

Elsewhere, the battle of Murray and the Springboks scrum-half Faf De Klerk promises to be a mouth-watering clash between two top tier – but very different – No.9s.

And the kicking duel between their half-back partners Dan Biggar and Handre Pollard should also prove to be a key battle in deciding the outcome of the second Test.

WHAT THEY SAID

British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “It’ll be another tight contest. We know the Springboks will be hurting and they’ll throw everything at us on Saturday.

“But I think there’s plenty more to come from us too. We feel we can go up another level from where we were in the first Test and I would expect us to improve.

“It’s the biggest game on the Tour and we have to embrace the expectation that comes with it. As players and coaches, these are the games you want to be involved in.”

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber: “This is a massive game for us; it is do or die in order to stay in the race to win the series.

“We selected a team that offers continuity in selection, but also that we thought would be the best suited to achieve the objectives we have set for this match.

“We need to be better in every area of the game this week, and the set pieces will be crucial in laying the foundations we need to execute our game plan effectively.”

TEAMS

South Africa: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Handré Pollard (vice-captain), 9. Faf de Klerk, 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Siya Kolisi (captain), 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8. Jasper Wiese

Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Lood de Jager, 20. Marco van Staden, 21. Kwagga Smith, 22. Herschel Jantjies, 23. Damian Willemse

The British & Irish Lions: 15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783; 14. Anthony Watson (Bath, England) #816, 13. Chris Harris (Gloucester, Scotland) #844, 12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824, 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841; 10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821, 9. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790; 1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) #787, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851, 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818, 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (c) (Ospreys, Wales) #761, 6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826, 7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853, 8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839

Replacements: 16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829, 17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #840, 18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814, 19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838, 20. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) #779, 21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843, 22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780, 23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822

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