South Africa vs British and Irish Lions : Who will impress as Warren Gatland’s men attempt to win series?

The British and Irish Lions face South Africa on Saturday in the second Test, live on Sky Sports. Below, we look at the key talking points…

The Lions lead 1-0 after beating the current world champions 22-17 last Saturday in the opening Test.

The visitors now have the chance to seal their first series win against the Springboks since the iconic 1997 tour.

Here are some of the key talking points ahead of this weekend’s crucial game…

Will Henshaw’s midfield partnership with Harris work?

Perhaps the most intriguing selection decision sees Chris Harris replacing Elliot Daly at 13 in the midfield.

It is the latest surprise sprung by head coach Warren Gatland as Harris will partner Robbie Henshaw for the first time on tour.

Despite not having his best game in the opening match, Daly’s ability to kick long-range penalties had been seen as pivotal.

There was also debate as to whether Owen Farrell would be brought in to provide an additional playmaking option to proceedings.

The England captain must settle for a place on the bench again though as the Lions aim to wrap the series up.

Will the ‘Bomb Squad’ make an impact?

Much was made of whether South Africa’s formidable bench would make the difference in the first Test.

However, it was the Lions who had the more impactful substitutions, with Mako Vunipola, Conor Murray and Farrell all impressing in the second half.

The home side have returned to their successful ‘Bomb Squad’ composition of six forwards and two backs for this clash as the Springboks look to overpower the tourists.

The South Africans used the same tactic in the 2019 World Cup final, which saw England’s forward pack get overwhelmed in Yokohoma.

The Lions must avoid the same fate if they’re to ensure the series is not levelled at Cape Town Stadium.

Murray in for aerial contest

Although Ali Price did nothing wrong in the opener, Murray starred off the bench, with his box-kicking causing all sorts of problems.

The Irish scrum-half will be expected to perform that role from the start as the visitors look to dominate the aerial battle once again.

South Africa also tend to utilise the high ball and have one of its best exponents in Faf de Klerk, who will be desperate to bounce back on Saturday.

However, with a back three of Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson and Duhan van der Merwe, the Lions will be confident of dealing with any aerial threat.

The front-row battle

After coming off the bench to great effect last Saturday, Vunipola comes in for Rory Sutherland in the front-row.

The Englishman held his own at scrum time in the first Test and that battle will be vital once again in determining which side comes out on top.

The Saracens loosehead was part of an English pack that were dominated by South Africa in the 2019 World Cup final.

Alongside Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tadhg Furlong, Vunipola will be aiming for a measure of retribution against a fired-up Springboks pack.

Who will win the coaching mind games?

There were some contentious calls from the TMO in the first Test, with the Lions perhaps fortunate to survive Willie Le Roux’s overturned try, while Hamish Watson was lucky to avoid being carded for a tip-tackle.

Gatland was believed to be furious at the decision to have a South African as the TMO before the game, but Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has hit back after the opener, claiming he was ‘baffled’ by the appointment of Marius Jonker as he’s ‘close, close friends’ with him.

Erasmus has also complained on Twitter that Vunipola acted in a “reckless and dangerous” manner for lifting Cheslin Kolbe off the floor.

It is clear that both coaches are hoping to influence the officiating ahead of Saturday’s encounter.

In what is expected to be another close match, the war of words between the respective camps could prove pivotal in determining who emerges victorious in Cape Town.

Every match from the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa will be exclusively live on Sky Sports; fans who don’t have Sky will be able to catch all the action via streaming service NOW TV, which offers day and month passes.

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