Preview: Lions set for test series decider against the Springboks

A view of the British  Irish Lions team huddle after the game 7/7/2021
It is now or never for the British and Irish Lions when they face world champions South Africa in the decisive third Test on Saturday.

It is now or never for the British and Irish Lions when they face world champions South Africa in the decisive third Test on Saturday.

Last time out, South Africa forced a decider after a comprehensive 27-9 win in the second Test.


The tourists led 9-6 at the interval, after a mammoth first half that lasted over an hour, but the Springboks fought back in the second period to level the series 1-1.

Despite the bruising defeat, the Lions could still seal a historic series victory in South Africa, if they produce one last match-winning performance to cap off the summer.

Team news

The Lions have made six changes from the starting side that tasted defeat in Cape Town last week.

Leading try-scorer of the tour, Wales’ Josh Adams will make his Lions Test debut with fellow countrymen Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Liam Williams also getting the nod.

Ireland centre Bundee Aki and Scottish scrum-half Ali Price are also brought into the starting XV.

Meanwhile, Welsh No.10 Dan Bigger is retained at fly-half after kicking three penalties in the second Test.

After his recovery from a dislocated shoulder, Wales legend Alun Wyn Jones again captains the side, winning his 12th successive Lions Test cap, and will move joint third in the all-time Lions Test caps record.

British & Irish Lions mount second-half comeback to stun South Africa and win first Test

Finn Russell (Scotland), Adam Beard (Wales) and Sam Simmonds (England) are all on the replacement bench for the first time this series.

Like the Lions, South Africa have also made changes. Scrum-half Faf de Klerk and 2019 World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit both miss out through injury.

Sale lock Lood de Jager comes into the Springboks side, to win his 46th cap.

Cobus Reinach, formerly of Northampton Saints, is set to start at nine while Siya Kolisi will once again skipper the world champions.

Ones to watch

Ireland’s Bundee Aki will make his Lions Test debut in the heat of a series decider.

But the Connacht centre could be the wildcard the tourists need to secure a series victory at the weekend.

In the last four years, since his international debut, Aki has consistently improved to the point where he has become a key player for Andy Farrell’s team.

Head coach Warren Gatland will be hoping Aki’s physicality and outstanding endurance levels can help the Lions backline dominate the hosts. Elsewhere the battle between the two scrum-halves could decide the outcome of the test.

Scottish No.9 Ali Price will be out to assert his dominance over Cobus Reinach, who has huge boots to fill, in the absence of the talismanic Faf de Klerk.

Price started in the successful first test for the tourists and will be out to show Gatland again, he is worthy of a starting role.

What they said

British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “The matchday 23 have an incredibly special opportunity in front of them – to seal a Lions Series victory in South Africa.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than this and we’re excited by the challenge that faces us on Saturday.

“We’ve no excuses from last week, the Springboks put us under pressure in the second half and deserved the win.

“We have to be much better than that second half performance, and I believe we will be.”

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber: “Big games like this takes a lot of energy out of you in the build-up, a lot of emotional energy. It’s draining because there is so much at stake.

“It’s something that we will have to handle as a group and it’s the same with them.

“Luckily for us in our group, they’ve been there before. It doesn’t make it easier but it helps you having that experience.

“I’ve been there before I’ve felt these butterflies before and you just have to work through it.

“It’s a do-or-die for both teams, it’s a final and it’s going to be massive.”


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. Cobus Reinach, 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Lood De Jager, 6. Siya Kolisi (captain), 7. Franco Mostert, 8. Jasper Wiese

Replacements: 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

Lions: 15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833; 14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) #836; 13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824; 12. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) #837; 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841; 10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821; 9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843; 1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842; 2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829; 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818; 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825; 5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (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. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851; 17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) #787; 18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814 – subject to outcome of disciplinary hearing.; 19. Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales) #852; 20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England) #849; 21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790; 22. Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) #835; 23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822