Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Cell C Sharks v British and Irish Lions (Part 2) – Match Preview

Rory Sutherland
2021 British & Irish Lions Tour To South Africa British & Irish Lions Squad Training, Jersey, United Kingdom 18/6/2021 Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

KO 5.00pm at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Saturday 10th July 2021

Live on Sky Sports Action

It’s like Groundhog Day for the Lions as they tackle the Sharks for the second time in less than 72 hours. There are plenty of changes on the B&I side though with 13 fresh faces compared to the XV that kicked off the 54-7 triumph on Wednesday – Duhan van der Merwe and Elliot Daly are the only Lions’ players to start in both matches. 12 of the 23 did not play in the first fixture and Robbie Henshaw and Stuart Hogg are the only tourists not to be involved in either game against the Sharks.

The hosts’ number 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, scrum half Jaden Henrikse and both wingers Thaakir Abrahams and Werner Kok (with the latter moving in one slot to outside centre) start having also done so on Wednesday. In all, 14 of the side that featured in the first game return with 12 brand new faces in the extended matchday squad of 26.

Tale of the tape

0   Test tries   88
   Average weight   93kg
0   Test caps   375
Average age   29.4

890kg   Pack weight   897kg
   Test tries   31
0   Test caps  311
25.6   Average age   29.5

8   Test caps   356
   Test tries   34
25.6   Average age   28.9


Cell C Sharks

15. Anthony Volmink
14. Marnus Potgieter
13. Werner Kok
12. Murray Koster
11. Thaakir Abrahams
10. Lionel Cronje
9. Jaden Hendrikse

1. Ntuthuko Mchunu
2. Kerron van Vuuren
3. Wiehahn Herbst
4. Le Roux Roets
5. Reniel Hugo
6. Dylan Richardson
7. Mpilo Gumede
8. Phepsi Buthelezi (c)

16. Dan Jooste
17. MJ Majola
18. Khutha Mchunu
19. Thembelani Bholi
20. Jeandre Labuschagne
21. Cameron Wright
22. Boeta Chamberlain
23. Jeremy Ward
24. Lourens Adriaanse
25. Rynhardt Jonker
26. Curwin Bosch

British & Irish Lions

15. Liam Williams
14. Anthony Watson
13. Elliot Daly
12. Chris Harris
11. Duhan van der Merwe
10. Dan Biggar
9. Gareth Davies

1. Rory Sutherland
2. Jamie George
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Courtney Lawes
5. Jonny Hill
6. Tadhg Beirne
7. Hamish Watson
8. Jack Conan

16. Ken Owens
17. Wyn Jones
18. Kyle Sinckler
19. Adam Beard
20. Sam Simmonds
21. Tom Curry
22. Conor Murray
23. Bundee Aki

Scot Watch

With four players in the matchday XV the tally of Scottish starts on tour will increase to 14 with five matches remaining. Only the 1997 trip (29 starts across 13 fixtures) has seen more in the pro era.

It has been more than five years since Chris Harris last started a match at inside centre (Boxing Day 2015 for Newcastle against Leicester). Robbie Henshaw’s continued absence with a slight hamstring strain has forced the shift of positions for Chris. This possibly compromises his tilt for the Test 13 shirt slightly but it does give him the chance to show his adaptability. Putting the team first, getting his head down and getting on with things is very much Harris’ style and he will no doubt relish the challenge.

Following his hat-trick on Wednesday night Duhan van der Merwe is now the equal top Scottish try scorer for the Lions in the professional era alongside Rob Wainwright who also bagged four tries – in his case on the tour of South Africa in 1997. There’s an argument to be made that with Josh Adams looking a certainty for the Test side and Stuart Hogg pencilled in at 15, the starting trio against the Sharks are battling it out for the final space in the back 3. More tries and another aggressive performance would mean Duhan has done everything in his power to put his name in the frame to play against South Africa.

The scrum took a noticeable step up in intensity when Rory Sutherland and Tadhg Furlong joined the fray on Wednesday evening. That was the first real period when the Lions’ pack have exerted the setpiece dominance that might have been expected against the South African provincial teams. Rory will be in direct opposition to the veteran former Ulster player Wiehahn Herbst again after both were replacements in the first Sharks’ game. Another powerful display could seal Sutherland’s place in the Test lineup.

When he crossed against the Sigma Lions, Hamish Watson became the first Scottish forward to score a try for the Lions in more than 20 years (since Simon Taylor against Western Australia, 8th June 2001). Hamish’s exceptional defensive work has been his key selling point so far on tour but as his try and carrying has demonstrated he will contribute across the board. He will want to set down yet another marker with Tom Curry lurking on the bench.

Cell C Sharks’ scouting report

The scouting report from the first match preview is here.

Some key points arising from Wednesday’s fixture were:

  • The good: The Sharks dominated territory and possession in the second half – racking up 72% and 70% respectively for these stats. If they had shown a little bit more composure they would have added to their solitary try. With three penalties won to one conceded the Sharks scrum had the better of the setpiece.
  • The bad: A tackle completion percentage of 78% is unlikely to be good enough at almost any level. Nor is coughing up 23 turnovers – particularly against a side as stacked with attacking talent as the Lions.
  • The ugly: The Lions’ back 3 combined only carried 22 times but were able to make 306 metres with ball in hand and score seven tries. The issues with the defence and space created started further in but there wasn’t too much physicality or energy among the outside backs when it came to their work at the tackle and breakdown.
  • Top performers: Phepsi Bhutelezi put in a massive shift with 20 carries and Marius Louw wasn’t far behind in the backs with 18. The starting props, Khwezi Mona and Khutha Mchunu, would have been content with their setpiece work. Overall though the Sharks’ top man (despite his yellow card) was Werner Kok who was a handful all night, carrying strongly and attempting the third highest number of tackles for the Sharks. The Blitzboks’ star will be back for more on Saturday evening.


Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
Assistant Referee 1: Jaco Peyper (SARU)
Assistant Referee 2: AJ Jacobs (SARU)
TMO: Stuart Berry (SARU)

Mr Barnes will take charge of both tonight’s game and also next week’s clash with the Stormers. The English official should be very familiar to all among the Lions’ squad and he with them – although his knowledge of the first names of Scottish players has seemed rather limited on occasion…

42 Responses

  1. So looks like Hogg is the chap who had a positive test…

    I swear if he misses out on a lion test cap again…

    1. Don’t think any players have tested positive (two PCR tests in two days, I believe). Some have been in close contact with the member of the management team who has tested positive, so I think this is precautionary.

    2. BBC article quotes Hogg and Henshaw are close to full fitness after minor injuries, or something to that effect, so is he just carrying a knock rather than covid? If it’s Toonie that’s positive you could quite imagine Hogg being his close contact though…

    3. He might, but it will be because the lions is not Scotland who play to his strengths and ignore his opportunities.

      1. Sir Ian picks Williams at 15. You may be right!!! Wow a team without Hogg, our best player ever ever, ever, ever, ever how dare he. Dummy’s will be spat .

  2. I suspect that if they mangle the Sharks scrum like I expect them to that this may be the test front row. Interesting that whilst he has mixed and matched every other part of the team the props definitely seem to be in 3 pairs. And Furlong and Sutherland look the best.

    I’m actually really interested to see how the two Irish lads do in the back row. Number 8 seems really open as Falatau just hasnt been quite as good as expected. Beirne needs to catch up on Lawes and Nividi who have both been great.

    If its me I’d have Navidi in contention for 8 actually, especially if they go with a Lock/6 hybrid.

    1. Sutherland/Furlong are miles ahead – they seem to be trying them with every hooker to find the best unit. For me it’s Owens/LCD/George at the moment. Worrying if the other pairings are fixed as I think Fagerson edges Sinckler, but Vunipola is not helping him out.

      Conan in the Japan game has looked the best 8 so far, Simmonds needs a big performance, Faletau has been poor.

      Beirne first choice 6 for me – maybe have Lawes covering 2nd row and back row on the bench as well as Navidi.

      Hope Hogg/Henshaw are fit for the next game otherwise they might get squeezed out of contention.

  3. Harris scores after VDM makes a great break

    Will Greenwood “wonderful from Anthony Watson”. – you couldn’t make it up!

      1. Sure…..

        It was a decent pass no more, but if any of the favourites had done what VDM did or scored they would have been banging on about them for 5 minutes.

        As it was they barely mentioned VDM.

    1. Watson “shoe in for the tests” leaks 2 tries on his wing already.
      Admittedly the first came from Daly’s turnover and Williams out of position for the second but Watson in no mans land.

      1. yeah back 3 ill be hogg, dvdm and adams that conversation is basically over barring injury. pretty hacked off that russells achillies was sore after lions game and yet still played off the bench in sharks could now be tour ending injury.
        Gatland needs horses for courses if the plan is to play expansive then Finn is the guy. hence why smith is called up.
        i think there’s going to be some really shocked people come the tests. every scot on tour has a good shout at test 23 right now. Fagerson needs another game without vunipola dragging every scrum down.

  4. No sign of Toonie in the coaching box. The camera seems to weirdly zoom in on Gatland and doesn’t show all the coaches like it normally does. Saw McBride to Gatland’s left and I think Tandy is to Gatland’s right but where is Toony? Could he be the positive case?

  5. Marcus Smith called up to the lions after Russell Injury ruling him out until at least the first test match.

    Thought Hastings would of been a better call up? Can cover 10 and 15, has proper International experience, handling himself well during the 2020 six nations, on fire at 15 outplaying Leinster towards the end of Glasgows season.

    The Irish wont be too happy either.

  6. Marcus Smith being flown out due to Finn’s injury. Looks like Finn’s tour may be over 😞

    1. I dont think Finn was going to make it , I think his undoubted skills are not what is wanted. Dr Robot will be the test starter and someone more consistent is needed as backup.

      1. Garland calling up Smith as “like for like” to offer something else and act as a game changer later on suggest Russell may well have been in line for a bench spot.

      2. Biggar’s kicking from hand, especially his up and unders are safe and low risk. No wonder Walesonline always say he is flawless because it’s hard to make mistakes when he doesn’t try anything adventurous.

      3. Fraser : I disagree and do not see the logic in that argument at all, not even slightly. What were the other options ! George Ford not touring with England. What is more Smith is not Finn (Lets not sully Finn with that one).

        For me the test 10 is Dr Robot and Farrell on the bench. We should now preserve him for the test and play Smith on the remaining matches.

      4. Warmer – well that was Gatland’s logic for picking him (in the pre-match interview)

      5. Fraser: You must be the first scotsman in there blogs that agrees with anything that Gatland says or does. I assure you Smith will not be in the test 23 for the first or second test. You can call me out then, if I am wrong.

      6. Warmer – I haven’t even remotely suggested that. I have said that based on Gatlands comments, Russell may very well have been likely to be the bench 10 for the tests.

      7. Who has been overlooked in the decision to replace Finn with Smith ? Adam Hastings! anyone else ?

  7. Bit of a shocker of a first half – full credit to the sharks though.

    Playing far too loose – looks like Barbarians not Lions at times. Suspect after the result last time they came out thinking the game was already won and they could just chuck it around.

    Scrum has been good – Sutherland solid and some good work in the loose.
    Forwards need to control thing a bit more and create a platform before the backs get ‘creative’.
    H. Watson one of the form forwards also.
    Hill has made a couple of dubious hits that didn’t seem to get picked up.
    Conan and Beirne ok but need to do more to secure test spots.

    Davies has not been great, Biggar not controlling things the way he normally does and shocking pass for one of the Sharks tries.

    Harris solid, Daly hit and miss. Agree with commentators they need 1 big ball carrier like Aki I. This lineup.

    VDM having another good game – great take in the air (and Daly surely could have got hold of the offload after) so another reason not to pick him chalked off. On form he should be starting the tests at 11.

    A. Watson really poor after all the build up (will probably score 8 tries in the second half now I’ve said that) and Williams also disappointing – dropped at least 1 high ball, out of position and not sweeping well. Had a couple of decent involvements in attack but nothing spectacular.

  8. VDM should have aborted that training ground move, was slow and messy and a bit too easy to read.

    Murray’s (apparently miles ahead of everyone else at 9) charge down could also see coming before he picked it up – nobody there to protect him.

    Lots of unforced errors this game – few players will be tired from the last game but most didn’t play (and a lot of the sharks also played)

    1. VDM must be in the test side. Daly as Man of the Match was an insult. VDM was my MOM easily.

      I can see Sutherland, VDM and Pinball starting. Harris will be hard to say ‘no’ to and Hogg needs to come out and claim his place in the 23 , there is no Shoe In’s IMO.

  9. My Lions XV so far

    Stuart Hogg – Josh Adams – Chris Harris – Robbie Henshaw – Duhan Van Der Merwe – Dan Biggar – Ali Price – Tom Curry – Hamish Watson – Josh Navidi – Maro Itoje – Tadhg Beirne – Tadhg Furlong – Luke Cowan Dickie – Rory Sutherland

    Liam Williams – Owen Farrell – Connor Murray – Taulupe Faletau – Courtney Lawes – Kyle Sinkler – Jamie George – Wyn Jones

    1. You are being a bit NaUGhTy again Neil. George is test starter and Ken Owens the backup. Back 3 ?

      1. I could Switch George and Cowan-Dickie around, not impressed with Owens.

        Happy with that back-three. Way ahead of the others.

    2. Has Hogg has done enough to start! Arrived late and never started in the semi or final. he needs another game to convince me.Ali Price will not start though I have to say he has shined so far, not really done much wrong , but no big test experience :( It is just not fair.

    3. Even Warburton was extolling Hamish Watson yesterday. Here’s hoping Gatland agrees and he isn’t injured but Sky still touting for Curry …. now there is a suprise ….. lol

  10. Sam Warburton explained Gatland’s plan and it was not expansive rugby. It was simply to pin them and go for forward drives in their 22. Deal with the Springbok ariel attack. I cannot think of many that can better Biggar and Williams in the air. Just do the simple things well.

  11. I think Hamish Watson will start. Curry is almost as good but Watson has been given 3 starts and performed well enough in them to edge ahead. Price for me is the standout 9 and should be in the test team,he looks hungry for the ball, has increased the tempo and keeps the pack moving well. Murray is a class act but perhaps the captaincy thing is weighing on him, he is not performing at his best, but as tour captain will no doubt get the nod. Sutherland has done enough to warrant being in the test side. Harris has not looked out of place either and could well make the side. I don’t see him as an impact sub (like Aki) though so if he’s not in the starting team he may not get picked. Fagerson hasn’t made the most of his opportunities, sure we can blame pie muncher Mako for poor scrum dominance but Zander hasn’t really shone in the loose which for me is his real point of difference. If Garland doesn’t pick DVDM for the tests it will be a travesty, the preconceptions about his lack of defensive nous and inability in the air, well at least one of those has been put to bed. I think whoever plays on the wing will have a torrid afternoon with Kolbe you might as well go with the winger who can put the wind up the other team. Hogg will be the test 15 unless injured. Bandy legs Williams has done nothing to suggest otherwise for me. All in all our boys are performing as well as they did in the 6N. We can be proud of that.

  12. What a weird game.

    Sharks had no defence but still scores where tied until the scrum half went off. Only one Sharks try wasnt a run in from guys chucking the ball about and dropping it rather than just playing through the opposition. Too many guys trying to make a highlights reel rather than do their job I think. Then a load of cheap tries when the opposition were completely shattered at the end.

    Not even 2017 Townsend would advocate that sort of play in the tests so its hard to see what we can get from any of the backs play.

    Up front oddly I though Hill had a decent game and Bierne. And the front row did well again.

    The best moment of the game for me however was the Thundertackle(TM) that Harris put in just before the sending off.

  13. I think Sutherland is the best for a stating place at this stage
    as he has the least competition.
    least likely to start are Fagerson and Price.
    That leaves H Watson,Harris,Vdmw and Hogg. None of these are certainties imo because of stiff competition though at least 2 will start.A lot depends on the combos that are being considered.

  14. I’m getting close to loving the Lions again after so many tours where our players have been overlooked, sometimes fairly (when tbh our Test side wasn’t very good) and sometimes very unfairly.

    None of our eight has provoked any ‘What’s he doing in the tour party?’ carping from the public or pundits after the first few games.

    It’s great to see Price, Sutherland, Hamish Watson and Harris getting plaudits from all directions.

    I must confess, I was a fierce critic of Harris’s selection and then his performance in the Wales 6N Test in 2018. He’s proved me wrong in the years since that awful day in Cardiff and is so close now to a thoroughly deserved place in the 23 for the first Test.

    Fagerson does need a proper LH packing down with him at some point. Mako has been as mince on this tour as he was in this year’s 6N.

    Covid-19 still threatens to scupper this Lions tour. I hope it doesn’t, but the health and welfare of players and management/support teams on both sides must surely be the paramount consideration.

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