Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


DHL Stormers v British and Irish Lions Match Preview

Ali Price
2021 British & Irish Lions Tour To South Africa British & Irish Lions Squad Training, Jersey, United Kingdom 17/6/2021 Ali Price Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

KO 5.00pm at Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Saturday 17th July 2021

Live on Sky Sports Action

Scottish players haven’t played a huge part in previous wins over the Stormers / Western Province. In 2009 there were 100 minutes combined for Nathan Hines, Ross Ford and Euan Murray as the Lions’ sneaked home 26-23. Alan Tait contributed a try and, along with Gregor Townsend, 150 minutes played in a 38-21 win in Cape Town in 1997. That should be very different this time round with seven Scots in the matchday 23.

Tale of the tape

0   Test tries   77
   Average weight   92kg
0   Test caps   278
Average age   27.0

886kg   Pack weight   898kg
   Test tries   30
0   Test caps  216
24.1   Average age   28.3

19   Test caps   436
   Test tries   45
24.3   Average age   28.9


DHL Stormers

15. Sergeal Petersen
14. Seabelo Senatla
13. Rikus Pretorius
12. Dan du Plessis
11. Edwill van der Merwe
10. Tim Swiel
9. Godlen Masimla

1. Leon Lyons
2. JJ Kotze
3. Neethling Fouche
4. Ernst van Rhyn (c)
5. JD Schickerling
6. Nama Xaba
7. Johan du Toit
8. Evan Roos

16. Andre-Hugo Venter
17. Kwenzo Blose
18. Sazi Sandi
19. Justin Basson
20. Marcel Theunissen
21. Thomas Bursey
22. Abner van Reenen
23. Juan de Jongh
24. Lee-Marvin Mazibuko
25. Niel Otto
26. Leolin Zas
27. Cornel Smit

British & Irish Lions

15. Stuart Hogg (c)
14. Josh Adams
13. Elliot Daly
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Duhan van der Merwe
10. Marcus Smith
9. Ali Price

1. Rory Sutherland
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Adam Beard
5. Jonny Hill
6. Tadhg Beirne
7. Hamish Watson
8. Jack Conan

16. Jamie George
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Zander Fagerson
19. Alun Wyn Jones
20. Sam Simmonds
21. Gareth Davies
22. Chris Harris
23. Louis Rees-Zammit

Scot Watch

(NB: all stats below relate only to the professional era – 1995 onwards – unless specifically stated.)

For the first time on tour, Scotland have the most players of any country in the starting lineup (5). The seven Scots in the matchday squad are the most for any pro era Lions’ side (beating the previous high of six selected for two previous games on this tour).

Stuart Hogg joins Gordon Bulloch as the only Scots to captain the Lions in more than one fixture. Missing three matches in a row has put the pressure on but Hoggy is surely still in pole position for the Lions’ 15 jersey in the first Test against South Africa.

Duhan van der Merwe makes his fourth Lions’ start on the wing – more than any other Scot in that position. The big man has scored on each of his three previous appearances. Continuing that try-scoring form will build up his case for Test selection still further.

Ali Price has the 9 jersey for the third time on tour – the same number of Lions’ starts as Greig Laidlaw (in 2017) and Chris Cusiter (in 2005). To move ahead of his predecessors he would need a Test start (or two, or three…). Conor Murray’s position as captain (AWJ’s miraculous return notwithstanding) might block that route but Ali’s form must be rewarded with a spot on the bench at the very least.

Rory Sutherland will make his fourth appearance in South Africa so far – the same number that Tom Smith made in the warm-up matches in 1997 before going on to start all three Test matches against the Springboks at loosehead prop. Rory has a strong chance of repeating that feat.

Hamish Watson’s fourth game on tour will be more than the combined Lions’ appearances of all other Scottish back rows in the 21st century. The biggest challenge to the Test side for Hamish remains Tom Curry. With fetchers required to disrupt the South African juggernaut, there remains the possibility that both 7s could make the 23.

Zander Fagerson’s fourth appearance on tour matches the tally of Euan Murray in 2009 – the only other Scottish tighthead to play for the Lions in the professional era. Zander looks to be third in the queue in his position but he will need to remain switched on as he will be warming up with the 23 every Test Saturday and will be only one injury away from playing against the Springboks.

The 13 jersey has been swapping between Chris Harris and Elliot Daly over the past five matches. Both players have made a strong case for tackling the Springboks and the discussions over the centre positions could go long into the night.

DHL Stormers’ scouting report

Players in the South Africa squad:

Only the Sharks (9) have provided more players to the Springboks squad than the eight called up from the Stormers. The home side’s pack will be missing front rows Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni and Frans Malherbe as well as lock Marvin Orie and back row Pieter-Steph du Toit. In the backs scrum half Herschel Jantjies and utility back Damian Willemse are absent on international duty.

Rainbow Cup stats:

The Stormers were runners up to the Bulls in the Rainbow Cup South Africa table. They were ranked 3rd in attack and 2nd in defence. They were also 2nd best for kicking, discipline and lineouts but only ranked 3rd in the scrum. The Lions are not fielding the heaviest of tight fives but will still hold a weight advantage over a youthful Stormers’ selection. This could be an area Warren Gatland and co. are looking to focus on ahead of the Test series.

Danger man:

Back row Evan Roos is one of the next generation of potential Springbok stars coming through. Having missed out on his South Africa under 20s eligible years in both 2020 and 2021 due to Covid, the young number 8 has been in at the deep end with the Stormers in Rainbow Cup and Currie Cup action. He ranked 10th for both carries and tackles made in the RC South Africa, demonstrating the all-round nature of his game. An excellent turnover threat he will be a thorn in the side of the Lions’ attacking shape.

Also watch out for winger Edwill van der Merwe. Like his namesake on the Lions’ left wing he’s a try-scoring, metres-making, tackle-breaking machine!

Tenuous Scottish rugby connections:
  • Seabelo Senatla scored a try when South Africa lost in the final of the 2016 London 7s to Scotland.
  • Giant lock, JD Schickerling has previously been linked with a move to Edinburgh or Glasgow (as has equally giant – and Scottish-qualified – lock David Meihuizen who is missing from the Stormers lineup on Saturday).
  • Godlen Masimla featured for the Southern Kings when they stunned Glasgow early in the 2018/19 season of the PRO14 – a game that should provide a reminder to never to take any side too lightly!
  • Substitute Leolin Zas was born in Worcester, Western Cape – also the birthplace of Glasgow Warriors’ legend DTH van der Merwe. (Yes, that is the sound of the barrel being scraped…)


Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
Assistant Referee 1: Jaco Peyper (SARU)
Assistant Referee 2: AJ Jacobs (SARU)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)

This will be the final outing for this group of officials before the Test bubble quartet take over for the remaining games. There have been no major controversies so far – with Faf de Klerk’s yellow card on Wednesday night coming closest. That was one of a number of decisions from Jaco Peyper that seemed to enrage both sets of fans in fairly equal measure. Expect Wayne Barnes to have a slightly easier time of things on Saturday. The Lions’ players in particular will be aware that a red card or citing at this stage is almost certain to be tour ending.

65 Responses

  1. I actually thought Vunipolla was excellent when he came on the other night, his work around the park but was very good but it would have been nice to have seen Zander lineup a few more scurms with a combination that didn’t involve Mako as often.

    Harris has a very decent chance at 13 as I could see Daly being the bench option in a 6/2 split.

  2. Yes agree Vinapola did look good outside the scrum (and wynn Jones was impressive all round). Extraordinary though that with just over a week until first test the only nailed on starters look like Furlong,Itoje,Adams and ..em….? in other words even less than before the tour started! In’m not sure if that’s good or bad?

    1. The dearth of nailed on starters is because so many of those with the reputation aren’t as good as those in form.

      It all depends if players are picked on the ability to fit into the structures or not. TBH, I’ve felt that there have been a lot of attempts to try different players in units to see which ones click.

    2. I really don’t get the whole Itoje thing…the only moments I remember from the last game are him jumping on top of a maul(penalty), him swimming up the side of another maul (penalty), and him reaching out to “score” a foot short and getting turned over (try missed). In another game, that’s 13 points…

      I don’t remember any gain line breaks or dominant tackles. Henderson was better I thought.

      1. I would be utterly fascinated to hear how you came to a place where you thought Henderson was better than Itoje?

        Itoje was outstanding the other night.

        An absolute monster in the line out, involved everywhere in attack and defense, winning turnovers, linking play, magic hands, tying players into rucks, when a player is given universal approval it generally means they have been excellent, he was.

        Henderson arguably wasn’t even the second best lock on the park for the Lions, Beard outperformed him when he came on, swimming around mauls like an octopus and wrecking South African heads.

  3. Its all about the combos and therefore the 2 countries with the most 0n tour have
    the most possible combos and this will swing marginal selections

  4. it’s actually hilarious watching English and Irish pundits trying to construe a version of events to convince themselves No scots will make the test side. They simply cannot compute that Watson, Russell, Price, Harris or DVDM could start. There is an article on RugbyPass called half term report all 40 players rated. It’s so far from reality it’s farcical. OTB from Ireland simply will not include Scottish players in any discussion. 10 is purely between Farrell and Biggar, Curry nailed on at 7, 13 is purely between Daly and Henshaw. LW is a shoe in at 15, Watson and Adams on the wings. Murray nailed on at 9. Farrell or Aki at 12. They have just mentally deleted all Scotland players from the squad.

    My Test side would be
    Sutherland, George, Furlong, Itoje, AWJ, Lawes, Watson, Conan, Price, Biggar (Russell if fit), Adams, Henshaw, Harris, DVDM, Hogg.
    Cowan Dickie, Wyn Jones, Sinkler, Beirne, Curry, Murray, Farrell, Daly.

    God I would f’ing love it if this was close to the test squad.

    1. I also saw the marking on Rugby Pass.I know “its only a game” but it was absolutely nauseating the marks given to Scottish players.Hogg,for instance,gets a 6 -when he had a faultless game-as captain-in his only outing! I think Price got the same marks as Murray!No wonder sportsmen are advised not to read twitter responses if this is how I feel about just casual commentary.Of course I shouldn’t read it but…!

  5. Finn isn’t fit for the first test, it is hard to see him getting in now unless it is in a dead rubber of a third test I feel, which is a shame. I can’t see a huge change between team in one and two, the last tour, even after a heavy defeat, there wasn’t massive changes between game 1 and 2 it was personnel who had been on the bench test 1 who featured.

    Can see starts a start for Hogg with Price, Sutherland and Harris starting or featuring at some point, not convinced Duhan will play much.

    I think Harris does have a decent chance, but could totally understand a case for him not playing TBF, Henshaw it outstanding at 12 or 13, Aki probably offers better crash ball, Daly a better pass, Farrell a second playmaker etc, it doesn’t take that long to make a case for Harris not playing.

    Mish likely on the bench for the first, Zander likely depending on fitness of others now to make the bench.

    I don’t think it is that absurd when people make a case for players for their own Nation etc the squad is stacked with quality Rugby players.

    I also think in terms of selection weighting the games played so far, Wednesday apart, will be quite far down the selection process with training likely holding more weight.

    1. I wouldn’t write off Finn jus yet. Toonie said they hope he will be back in full training by the end of next week which would give him a full week of training ahead of the second test. If Farrell continues his poor form then he’s in with a great chance of at least making the bench in the second test and he has plenty credit in the bank with Toonie who will push his case.

      1. The fact they haven’t sent him home yet and are still talking about getting him involved shows he was a part of their test plans I think.

      2. I think they are desperate for him to be available otherwise he would be back in France by now. Biggar is the starting 10, but Farrell cannot play the game Toonie wants at 10 so they need Finn in the 23 or at least as back up to Biggar.

        It does feel like this might be the last game of the tour for a few chaps though. Hill, Simmonds and LRZ just feel way down any pecking order you might have at their position. Id put Conan there but nobody else looks nailed on at 8.

        And pray for Hogg. If he misses out again it would be a travesty.

      3. If Hogg misses out again , he would need to question why ? It is hardly a ‘travesty’ which means distortion or false representation, I believe. I am baffled as to why Exeter did not pick him in the semi and final. A high profile signing like Hogg omitted and now he is short of match practice for the lions. It is inconceivable. But come on it is hardly a false misrepresentation, is it ? It is simply a decision to be made at a point in time, all things considered. Oh, I suspect Hogg will be in the 23, just my opinion , for numerous reasons, not least because the SA A game was such an abysmal showing by the great and the good of GB rugby.

      4. FF: There could be loads of alternative reasons , not least he is helping others in the side, sharing his knowledge, motivation and upskilling others. Being a lion is about the squad, helping the match day 23 win the test. Everyone on tour from captain to water-boy plays their part.

      5. England players in general and in particular Farrell do not play in a way that will beat the boks.

        This was proved again last Wednesday.

        The untelegraphed kick pass to the wing is a key skill…

  6. Think I need to stop looking at pundits/ex-players test teams and comments.

    Scottish player has multiple excellent performances – “might be on the fringes of maybe getting a bench spot”
    English/Welsh (for some reason rarely Irish) player does 1 good thing in 3 games – “nailed on test starter”

    Let’s hope the coaches can look beyond this narrative as several Scots deserve a starting spot currently.

    Unfortunately I’m sure today’s game being against “weak” opponents will be used to belittle even the best performances.

    I genuinely want to see the best possible test team picked and if the Scots were not up to scratch I would be ok with none of them playing, but I don’t think even the most one-eyed person could say that is the case this tour!

    Really hope Russell does recover for the later tests as Farrell has been terrible at 10 and 12, but I can’t see Garland not having a genuine 10 on the bench in the tests and Smith would be a massive call to play.

    1. Yes I saw Warburton’s team for 1st Test in paper this morning.Just thene Scot in the 23-Hamish Watson-and that only because he has Curry at six! Really must stop reading this nonsense.Best to think positive,after all likely only time a Scot will captain a team with AWJ in it.And three Scottish backs -possibly four if Harris comes on-playing with Marcus Smith later today could be tasty!

  7. If I hear or see another article saying how Liam Williams is a better option than Hogg I’m going to scream. Williams tackle stats in the six nations were far worse than Hoggs, he also offers far less with ball in hand nor does he have the boot of Hogg. Yes he’s better in the air but Hogg is now slouch. The Lions need an attacking threat which doesn’t look like it will come from anywhere but the back three and Hogg needs to be part of that three.

    1. I look forward to next week. I think we may be in for some long overdue and much missed , dummy spitting, but it may help to see us as others see us. The lions will build a game plan around 23 men. There will be no compromises. It is what they do with Duhan that will interest me, it needs more than one man to stop him , are they brave enough to go for that in the first test. Hogg , played well this evening, he will be in the 23.

  8. Another exciting 1st half review…
    Shaky start but coming into the game nicely.
    Scots Watch
    Sutherland – unlucky to get pinged a couple of times as the Stormers 3 was fading I thought. Maybe needs to show up a couple of times with ball in hand or making a turnover to show he should start.
    Watson – a little quiet. Doing the dirty work well and some good carries but again needs to really show up to be first choice over Curry.
    Price – outstanding, running the game and some excellent breaks/passes. Should be miles ahead at 9.
    VDM – continuing his strong form, should start.
    Hogg – pretty solid and good decision making, still first choice but needs to turn it on in the second half.

    Smith – no mistakes, looks like he has been told to keep it simple, would like to see some backline moves. Really needs a haircut.
    Beirne – excellent, first choice 6.
    Cowan-Dickie – surely starting hooker now.
    Conan – probably the best 8 but maybe Curry should start there…
    Daly – far too many mistakes. Missed tackles and dropped balls.
    Adams – poor, multiple mistakes, mind not on the game.
    Henshaw – solid

    Need to see a big second half and I think we will pull away comfortably.

    1. Don’t think Sutherland and Watson will be selected for 23 squad next week I’m afraid

      1. I agree. The SA A game will be used as the benchmark.
        On showing I would think we may get 1-2 in the Test squad. Ali Price played well, Hogg perhaps.

      2. For first test:

        Sutherland done himself no favours , MV will take bench for Jones

        Fagerson out of 23

        Hogg 50:50 depending on LW HIA

        Price deserves to start

        Harris deserves to start at 13 if ED errors reviewed fairly

        Watson on bench, good tackle stats but didn’t get far

        DVDM , bench until oppo tiring

        Finn, so frustrated for him.

        SRU should offer RSA a tour independently when Covid restrictions removed ASAP.

    2. Nothing too much to add after the second half – can’t read too much into the last 10 minutes or so as the Stormers were knackered.

      My honest 23 for next week (trying to be a sun-biased as possible…)

      1 Sutherland (not his best today, but over all the games edges Jones)
      2 Cowan-Dickie (very much like the Scottish extra 7)
      3 Furlong
      4 Itoje
      5 Henderson (wouldn’t complain over several others)
      6 Beirne (been superb)
      7 Watson (his unseen work is the best)
      8 Curry (none of the 8’s have stood out enough)
      9 Price (so much better than the others, a travesty if he doesn’t start)
      10 Biggar (only choice currently)
      11 VDM (defence has been fine, offers something nobody else does in attack)
      12 Henshaw
      13 Harris (too many mistakes from Daly today)
      14 Adams (did enough in the previous games, so will let him off for today)
      15 Hogg (He’s just better than Williams)

      16 Jones 17 Owens 18 Sinckler
      19 AWJ (not sure he’s ready to start but a good talisman if it’s going badly) 20 Simmonds (impact player) 21 Murray 22 Smith (or Russell if fit – I’m sure it will be Farrell but he has been so bad) 23 Daly

      1. Obviously there are too many Scots in that team and it will never happen but any of them that lose out will be tight calls.
        Suspect most of them will feature in at least one of the tests.

      2. English press leap on pretty much any (English) player with 2 ounces more creativity than expected for their position.

        Usually such reprehensible nonsense is dealt with during debugging at the WOOS factory

      3. Rob , I do not entirely agree, I don’t really care for scores. Smith did have a good game and played with confidence and a smile. Not saying he is test standard but you need to give credit where due. If you can name a few of his faults that score could be downgraded and justified? If not ! Save it for this week, no one is going to be 100% happy.

      4. Probably not so much that he got a 9, but that other players who had equally good games get marked a couple of points lower – there’s just no objectivity in most of the player ratings I have seen.

        I don’t think anyone has said Smith didn’t do well.

        Also, I would give him at least -2 points for his floppy hair that he has to move out of his eyes every 3 seconds.

      5. What were Smith’s faults? I cannot think of any , just a decent game against a club side. Relax, he is not going to make it this week.What is ‘equally good’ mean , he run everything and kicked his kicks. Of course he stood out and is better than them that cannot run or kick for the posts.

    3. Sutherland was hard done by as the Stormers tighthead was crumbling under aggression on the engage…The SA commentary and even Barnes were pretty sympathetic…

      Something tells me too much aggression won’t be an issue in the tests…

      1. I also recall hearing one of the commentators say that the Stormers no.6 was stretching over and pushing Sutherland downwards with his hand. He’s normally a top class scrummager and it was very uncharacteristic of him

      2. If ever a guy deserves a test place it is Sutherland, few would have the guts to recover from that injury let alone make the 23. Fingers crossed.

      3. Yes, Stormers 3 was fading until the ref seemed to catch onto it.
        At least this is something that the Lions coaches will be fully aware of.
        Still the number 1 Loosehead for me.

  9. Now, was Josh Adams taken off to rest him or did the coaching team accept that he was poor!

    1. Adams is a good winger but he flattered to deceive against poor sides who ran out of gas. I think he’d get found out against the Boks and so I would start Hogg, Williams and either Watson or DVDM.

      1. I agree on Adams. I would not be critical of your opinion, I wish I could keep an open mind on the others.

  10. Agree with all the comments above regarding these pundits ‘nailed on’ starters, clearly they want players they know getting the nod. While I don’t think Gatland gives a toss about what the press think, his choices are too often based on reputation. For me Murray, Farrel, Vunipola, Faletau , L Williams, A watson and George were all picked on past performances and none have showed their class so far.
    Price is the best 9 on tour, Mish the best 7, VDM the standout winger and Harris the best centre and without doubt the 1 player on tour who has kicked on from the 6N. All should be in the 23. Sutherland good enough but faces a battle against Jones, Fagerson ? well we can blame his pairing with Mako for lack of set piece dominance but he has regressed since the 6N. As for Russel, if he played blindingly on tour Gatland may begrudgingly gave him a seat on the bench but he hasnt shined.

  11. The 3 Irish starters are Furlong,Beirne and Henshaw. Not sure who the 3 Scottish
    starters are. I thought Sutherland was the best bet but now I feel Vunipola will start.Furlong rules out we have 3 from Price,Hogg,VDM,Watson,Harris…I think Price and Harris will lose out a start place
    so its Hogg,Vdm and Watson for me but none could bet on as certainties.

    1. I remember back last couple of seasons and the chats on here about Harris as Toonie’s boy and that he should not be in the Scotland team. Me thinks that this discussion may have changed somewhat after this tour 🙂

      1. Absolutely agree. Whether it’s the confidence boost of being selected for the Lions or not, there’s no doubt he’s showing what a good player he is. If we can get a Jones/Harris or Redpath/Harris combo to click, we’re well set in the centres next 6 Nations.

  12. The Bulls beat (admittedly a much changed side) SA A 17-14. A great shame the game against the Bulls could not be fulfilled as look like the strongest of the SA provincial teams…

  13. My Lions Team for first test (trying to be unbiased)

    Stuart Hogg – Anthony Watson – Robbie Henshaw – Bundi Aki – Duhan Van Der Merwe – Dan Biggar – Ali Price – Taulupe Faletau – Hamish Watson – Tadhg Beirne – Maro Itoje – Iain Henderson – Tadhg Furlong – Luke Cowan Dickie – Wyn Jones

    Liam Williams – Elliot Daly – Connor Murray – Tom Curry – Courtney Lawes – Kyle Sinkler – Jamie George – Mako Vunipola

  14. Very disappointing to see some of the reports on yesterday’s match and pundits’s projected test teams.I feel I’ve been watching a totally different tour! How on earth after two excellent games(and captaining well) with perhaps a couple of mistakes -one dropped high ball yesterday-can Hogg appear to be out of the running .Even his coutryman Ian McGeechan doesn’t select him!!
    I still believe every one of the 7 fit Scots-except ZF who had a exvery good last 20 mins both scrummaging and rampaging in the loose after a shaky first 5 mins- are in with a serious chance of a starting spot let alone 23.

  15. I think Hogg was a bit unfortunate yesterday. People slammed him for a couple of dropped balls but it looked like very slippery conditions yesterday. There were lots of handling errors from Lions players and players losing their footing. If he’d found Adams then people would have been gushing about his performance. Pundits focused on him throwing the ball forward and straight out to touch but it was an excellent break in the first place which didn’t get mentioned at all.

    Sadly I don’t think we’ll see too many Scots until the second test. I think Gatland will go with reputation/credit in the bank picks like Murray next Saturday and I think it’ll cost him the first test.

    1. Chat around Hogg is a bit baffling as he was outstanding in the 6N, has played well on tour and been chosen as Captain twice, and Liam Williams has not been anything special. Hogg is a leader and Williams can lose his head eg. Against France in the 6N.

      I would be very surprised if Hogg isn’t selected, I get the impression he’s a player Gatland trusts and he is Toonie’s captain after all.

      Reckon Hogg and Price will start, but increasingly pessimistic about other players given current online debate.

      1. FF/ It is only ‘baffling’ for us . He is our ‘star’ player. The mid week captain role is an honor and something special to take from the tour. Barring injury , he will not start , he is likely to be in the 23. He will not be alone, other outstanding players in the 6N and the tour may miss out.

    2. Yes, I have a feeling the first test might be all the out of form players the pundits are determined to have starting and they will have a very tough day at the office – then bring in 4 or 5 Scots and other in form players for 2 and 3.

      1. The pundit’s do not pick the team. The will be a lot of really hard done by guys, just look at the second rows, none of them deserve to be in the stand.

    3. ‘A few Dropped balls’ against the Springbok could lead to a few convertible tries. That is their tactic. Kick, kick, kick, force errors in red zone , penalty or try. Sad to watch but, effective.

      1. Ardent you need to ask Saint why he thinks he writes ‘a couple of dropped balls and you think only one’ you cannot both be correct. One thing that is fact is Hogg did not start the semi or final for his club. Oh and they lost , so what does that say !!

      2. Hogg definitely dropped a high ball within the first few minutes of kick-off (I remember thinking to myself that he went up too early for it) and I might be mistaken but I’m pretty sure he dropped another one mid way through the first half. Liam Williams and Anthony Watson have not exactly been error free either.
        In fairness to Hogg he showed quick hands to get the ball to Hill for his try and did a great support run and selfless pass for Simmonds’ try.

      3. saint – I agree with you , but you know, even if it caused 1 try or a penalty , that could be the difference. Against a team without a springbok as well. Good post saint shame about those who think you can win a game based on their favoritism.

      4. They have all dropped about the same number of balls and have had similar handling errors.
        Hogg for me has done more in attack and made/assisted in more tries so is ahead for me.

      5. TENC that’s fair and I agree that one dropped ball could be costly but IMO we have to look at a player’s overall net contribution. Some of Duhan’s critics slam him for missing a couple of tackles but when you offset that against the tries scored, tackles broken, meters made he’s more than worth his place in the team. Same goes for Hogg if he’s making metres and tries.

      6. DVDM needs more that one man to tackle him, however that may need to be seen in test conditions to cement a place. I hope he makes the 23. He is the only winger that can take more than one out every time he gets the ball.

    4. Individually I think we fans and pundits all have players in mind that we hope to do well, and so we hang our hopes on their highlights; and there are players who for whatever reason we wish to do poorly, and we hang our criticisms on their lowlights.

      The job of the coaching team is to cut through all this and ask a simple question – who is best placed to enact their part in the game plan under pressure. They didn’t get where they are by picking “popular” teams.

      The question for our hopefuls is more the game plan rather than quality as such. In particular Price will need a more adventurous gameplan than shown vs SAA.

      1. Good post. The thing with Gatland is that he is a conservative coach is really big on trusting players who have delivered for him in the past even if they are not necessarily the in form option for their position. I think he will see the first test as a bit of a ‘free hit’ and I can see him going for his trusted reputation/credit in the bank picks knowing that the series can still be won if they lose next Saturday. If he picks the likes of Murray, AWJ, Aki etc. then I think the Boks will win the first test and we might see the form players like Price and Harris feature in the second test.

      2. Nope he will rely on test experience if in doubt , but it is a good open minded post , I agree.Pity it has to be said mind you.

  16. There have been very few standouts so far on this tour. Ironically two of them are vying for the same position. I would say the only nailed on starters are Itoje Furlong and Beirne. The rest is pretty open. The centres and no.8 have been the most uninspiring so far. It would be interesting to see how much influence Townsend and Tandy have in selection. The pundits are generally an embarassment and cant get beyond their nationalistic bias. There could be 6 scots in the starting line up but equally there could be none. I suspect Hogg, Price and Watson will start and Sutherland will be on the bench .

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