Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


South Africa ‘A’ v British and Irish Lions Match Preview

Chris Harris
2021 British & Irish Lions Tour To South Africa British & Irish Lions Squad Training, Jersey, United Kingdom 22/6/2021 Chris Harris Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

KO 7.00pm at Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Wednesday 14th July 2021

Live on Sky Sports Action

The last time that the Lions took on South Africa ‘A’ (then named Emerging Springboks) Ross Ford and Nathan Hines played and Mike Blair was an unused sub. Just three of the 22 players on the South African development team would go on to win 10 or more full caps for their country. By contrast, in the 25-man squad named for Wednesday’s game, 17 players have already won 10 or more full caps. This is an extremely strong selection for the home side – a Test team in all but name with a little bit of experimentation thrown in.

Tale of the tape

49   Test tries   76
   Average weight   94kg
245   Test caps   387
Average age   28.9

925kg   Pack weight   898kg
   Test tries   30
277   Test caps  431
28.5   Average age   29.1

197   Test caps   313
   Test tries   50
28.4   Average age   28.2


South Africa ‘A’

15. Willie le Roux
14. Cheslin Kolbe
13. Lukhanyo Am
12. Damian de Allende
11. Sbu Nkosi
10. Morne Steyn
9. Faf de Klerk

1. Stephen Kitshoff
2. Joseph Dweba
3. Trevor Nyakane
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Franco Mostert
6. Marco van Staden
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Jasper Wiese

16. Malcolm Marx
17. Coenie Oosthuizen
18. Vincent Koch
19. Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg
20. Rynhardt Elstadt
21. Herschel Jantjies
22. Jesse Kriel
23. Damian Willemse
24. Kwagga Smith
25. Elton Jantjies

British & Irish Lions

15. Liam Williams
14. Louis Rees-Zammit
13. Chris Harris
12. Bundee Aki
11. Anthony Watson
10. Owen Farrell
9. Conor Murray

1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Maro Itoje
5. Iain Henderson
6. Josh Navidi
7. Tom Curry
8. Taulupe Faletau

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Zander Fagerson
19. Adam Beard
20. Tadhg Beirne
21. Sam Simmonds
22. Gareth Davies
23. Elliot Daly

Scot Watch

Two Scots in the matchday squad are the fewest for any game so far on tour. It’s still an improvement on 2017 though – outwith the Test matches there were three occasions on the tour to New Zealand when there was a solitary Scottish player in the matchday 23.

Chris Harris will be the first Scottish back to play against South Africa ‘A’ since Jim Renwick and Andy Irvine in 1980. He will be making his third start of this tour – the most by any Scot for the Lions in the centres in the pro era. Robbie Henshaw’s continued absence from the midfield has really opened up the contest for the 12 and 13 jerseys – although if the Irishman is fit to play this Saturday he almost certainly fills one slot for the Test series. All Chris can do is continue to play the way he has so far in South Africa and put his hand up for selection as the defensive leader at outside centre.

Zander Fagerson will make his third appearance of the tour and has potentially one final big opportunity to stake a claim for a Test match place. It will require a huge shift in the loose and a powerhouse scrummaging performance to oust either Kyle Sinckler or Tadhg Furlong from the 23. Zander will probably face off against South Africa’s replacement loosehead, Coenie Oosthuizen – a player Fagerson has some previous experience against from when Sale travelled to take on Glasgow in the Champions Cup a couple of years back.

South Africa ‘A’ scouting report

Having held their squad back from playing for their provincial sides during the Lions’ early fixtures on tour, Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus have decided to let it absolutely rip in this game. The squad of 25 named includes 18 World Cup winners, 12 of whom played in the RWC final victory against England. Handre Pollard and Makazole Mapimpi are the only starting backs missing from that famous night in Tokyo.

Uncapped players:

With many in this side being very familiar figures on the international stage here’s an opportunity to look at the players in the South Africa ‘A’ lineup who came into this summer uncapped and rate their chances of featuring in the Test series to come.

Joseph Dweba should be well known to followers of the PRO14 – the hooker hoovered up tries and Player of the Match awards during his time with the Cheetahs. Now with Bordeaux-Begles in the Top 14, he is an awkward customer to put down and always liable to make yards. As things stand he’s unlikely to displace the top two choices at hooker – Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx – but 25 is no age for a front row forward and his time will surely come.

Jasper Wiese is another former Cheetah but perhaps one who didn’t stand out quite as much as Dweba during his time in the PRO14. It took a move to Leicester to really unlock his potential and he has found the perfect home in a Tigers’ squad who have auditioned any number of back row forwards in recent years but who have struggled to find a player who performs at a consistently high level week in week out. Wiese has filled that gap as an abrasive ball carrier with a huge appetite for work. Having already edged Marcel Coetzee out for selection to the 47-man Springboks squad – and with Duane Vermeulen nursing an injury – Wiese now finds himself in pole position for the number 8 jersey

Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg played for South Africa under 20s back in 2014 when two of his teammates were Pierre Schoeman and Duhan van der Merwe! The big lock might have been tempted to throw in his lot with France, having been based there since 2016 with Montpellier but his patience has been rewarded. Given the injury issues surrounding RG Snyman and Lood de Jager, van Rensburg could well have a shot at a bench spot and a full cap against the Lions.

Extremely tenuous Scottish rugby connection:

Excluding matches against New Zealand and Australia, Frans Steyn has tasted defeat in just 4 of 47 appearances for South Africa, with Scotland accounting for one of those defeats (he also managed 2 wins against the dark blues). That loss came at Murrayfield when starting fly half, Morne Steyn, was played off the pitch by Dan Parks who scored all 21 of Scotland’s points. The other defeats for Steyn came against England (10 wins); Ireland (no wins); and the Lions (2 wins).


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

The warm-up refereeing group continues (seriously – imagine the ref chat and Dad jokes taking place in that bubble) and Mr Peyper returns to the centre of attention. Local fans didn’t seem too impressed with his last outing when the Lions’ tackled the Cell C Sharks for the first time. With a number of Test candidates on show, Warren Gatland will be hoping his team avoids any serious troubles with the officials.

37 Responses

  1. I think LRZ is in for an uncomfortable evening, I’d suspect he’ll be targeted both on the ground and in the air. Harris Bundi axis is this now looking like a starting option. Shame Murray has been named captain as Price has had the best of it by some distance, at least he should be a shoe in for a place on the bench.

    1. No sign of Marcus Smith as yet ! No expansive rugby just yet. I would have thought this would be the time to try that one out. I never believed it anyway. I think we are getting much closer to guessing the test side. Owen Farrell is the backup 10 IMO. I think this lions Bench will be very strong , expect the unexpected.

    2. I could see a scenario where AWJ returns, resumes captaincy and Murray gets relegated. Still a few twists and turns Im sure before this tour is done.

      1. The one question for me is Hogg. Will he start or be on the bench. He will be in the 23 but he is not having the ideal ride into the test. I can see Harris and Sutherland starting , with Watson, Hogg and Price in the 23. I think that is brilliant to be even optimistic about test starters.

  2. AWJ is returning to take the captaincy back, so Conor will have to win his place on merit. I have no doubt he will, but he’s up against Faf de Klerk, so will have to be on top form in any event.

  3. Big game for Zander if he hopes to get near the test team. Not sure packing down with Vunipola is helping his case so he’ll just have to hope to get on a bit earlier and really go for it.

    I think Chris Harris just needs one of those games where he is a defensive rock and then he will have done all he can to make the test team.

  4. I’m looking forward to tonight’s game. Sort of hoping the non-Scots get a spanking to curb the enthusiasm of biased pundits and media.

    1. Still not quite got the idea of the Lions, have you Scottie? Maybe it’s taking you longer to forgive/forget the last 4 tours where Scottish representation was unfairly meagre.

      Now we have eight Scots in the squad, all of whom have a decent chance to be in the 23 for the first test, I’d have expected the chip on the shoulder to have been removed. I, for one, will be cheering on Murray, Owens, Itoje et al as if they were ALL Scots.

      Maybe not Curry though. Hahaha.

      1. No chip on the shoulder Merlot, just annoyance at pundits and media proclaiming Faleteau at 8 for example, based on reputation, not form. A Watson at full-back is another, he’s a winger! Happy to cheer on whatever team goes out but just want to listen to fair analysis.

  5. This is why Russell is needed in the test team, the only fly-half who can challenge the Boks in ways they have not dealt with before.

    1. He might be fast and loose but he can see space way better than Farrell or Biggar.

  6. First half review – Lions blown away in the first 30 but might be coming back into it.

    Not at lot of players have improved their chances for a test place.
    Curry has looked decent, Daly quite busy, Wyn Jones (and by default Sinckler since they seem paired up) looking like the backup props.

    Backline has been poor – Farrell again failing to communicate/read players around him and charge down try, Murray average, LRZ struggling.
    Quite a few players anonymous – only noticed Faletau once on his break.
    Harris missing Kolbe but can’t blame him too much for that one.
    Tactical kicking terrible.
    Support play at tackle/ruck very slow.

    If they can’t get the score closer while 2 men up it might be a long second half.

    From a Scottish point of view I was worried not playing in this game would be detrimental to test selection as it gave others a chance to have a big game against better opposition – so far it’s the opposite for most of them.

  7. Anyone else think the commentators keep saying Visser and wondering when Tim got called up?

  8. Watched on S4C and I have what seems an uncommon view.

    SA A were lucky to win. Break away try and one bit of Kolbe magic. That was kind of it. Once the pack up the physicality the Lions were the better team. They just started 14 points behind and then botched try scoring chances. The Lions also got outside the Saffa defence a few times and thats encouraging.

    Curry looked very good and I wonder if Gats might have to play him and Mish. Certainly they look the best two back row players given none of the 8s have been shining.
    Farrell tried to be Finn Russell with the cross kicks and um, er, no thanks.
    Sadly the only way I see Zander getting a test cap is through injury.

    1. Zander looked slow and ponderous. The best team won, the lions looked like a composite team and lacking leadership. Nice of SA to give us a stern test mind you. Gatland has a lot to do and not a lot of time.

      1. That clearly wasnt the test side yet for either team. The only combination that looked like the first choices was the second row, and Henderson was quiet.

        The Lions really need the following:

        Hogg and Henshaw to be fit and ready to go. Aki cant pass and Daly cant defend. And Watson is a winger.

        Russells Achilles to clear up and Biggers niggle to be OK. If the answer is Farrell its the wrong question.

        One of the number 8s to pick up some form. (or play Navidi there)

        For the love of all thats holy somebody to stand as a pillar when they box kick. Thats basic stuff guys!

        Kick the goals. Not tap and go.

      2. I feel we are seeing Zander in true comparison with the others and he is not up to their standard. Apologies to Zander fans but just my perspective to what I see from the tour games

    2. I’d play Curry and Mish at 6 and 7 respectively and play Beirne in the second row with Itoje. Gatland won’t do that of course and will start AWJ.

  9. Gatland has said Hogg will definitely get a run out on Saturday, so hopefully that’ll be enough to establish his place in the team. Williams hasn’t really had an opportunity to impress and when he has played he’s been fine but nothing special. Watson has been impressive but easy to fit him into back 3 alongside Hogg and Adams. Probably leaves Williams on the bench although DVDM be a better impact player and either Adams or Watson can cover 15 if necessary.

    Concerned Watson will be edged out by Curry so he needs another big game on Saturday. Curry probably better in bench, if Watson doesn’t start he doesn’t play.

    Sutherland possibly supplanted by Wyn-Jones.

    I’m optimistic first test side will have Hogg and Watson as starters, and Price, Sutherland and DVDM as replacements (Price should really be starting and Gatland could show his ruthless side again). Harris could even be in centre mix depending on who is fit. If Finn recovers he has a shot at the squad too.

    All in all the Scots lads have shown themselves to be good tourists and done themselves proud so far.

    1. Not so optimistic about VDM unfortunately. I think his versatility and good form destines Daly for the 23 shirt. On the off chance he starts at 13, then Duhan may have a chance.

      Would have loved to have seen Curry and Watson as 6,7 but since curry played 80 mins yesterday there’s no way he’ll play on Saturday meaning there is no time to play them together before the tests.

      If Watson plays well on Saturday he’s got a serious chance of starting with curry on the bench. Same as Sutherland.

    2. Agree with your post.

      Price has been very good and surely the bench option assuming Murray starts.

      DVDM can do no more but completion is fierce and Gatland will be trying to find the right blend. Hogg hopefully has the credit in the bank to still be at 15.

      I wouldn’t mind a Henshaw-Harris combination at all in the centres and Harris is another who probably can do no more.

      Sutherland will be unlucky if he’s not in the 23. I’d start him but could see Gatland starting Jones but it will be very frustrating if it’s Vunipola benching.

      Fagerson may be unlucky as Furlong starting and Sinkler benching is a potent combo.

      Watson has been superb for me. Curry and Navidi are both very good though and you feel Gatland likes Curry.

      One thing is for sure, this will be an abrasive series so the starting lineup in the third test won’t be the same as in the first.

    1. Navidi? Or Curry? Depends who the 6 is. But it is a concern.

      The Lions attacking plan need quick ball and the Saffers defence is all about making the ruck as mess. Simmonds is like a 7s player with ball in hand, amazing, but does not seem to be much cop at the dirty stuff like clear outs.

      Also if they want quick ball maybe not have a scrum half who saunters up to the ruck smoking a gitane like Murray does.

  10. Gatland said “a run out” for Hogg.Not sure if that meant he was fit to start or he’d have 20 mins off bench.
    Mind you they need him as only DVDM and Adams of the back three playersare really fresh for Saturday.

  11. After last night Watson (Hamish) and sutherland are no longer the certainties for test start we thought threy were.Wynn Jones and Curry were excellent.
    Odd that every one of the Scots bar Fagerson has reasonable chance of starting the First Test-equally all could miss out!

    1. Not many have said that either Sutherland or Hamish Watson were certainties. There’s intense competition for every position.

      Neither player featured in a defeat last night in which the Lions pack were outplayed for the first half our or so.

      So I can’t understand why you’d say their chances have receded because they didn’t play in a match the Lions lost, largely due to inability to match Saffer A up front for the first period.

  12. With AWJ coming back, this gives Gatland an opportunity to drop Murray from the starting 15, he’s produced nothing that Price has not been better at, his box kicking, once a strength was simply awful yesterday, coupled with his very poor decision making when playing 13 men. Hopefully Finn will be back as Farrell looks as poor now as he has done for the best part of a year.

  13. Hi
    Apologies if this isn’t allowed, if not please delete post. I just want to watch the games!

    I have NOW Tv Sky sports app on phone, PC and through TalkTalk Tv.

    Once a game (Lions Rugby) is completed it becomes available to watch on demand on my phone. No issue there.

    However, the same on demand game is NOT available on the PC app or the TalkTalk app to watch on my TV.

    Does anyone have the same issue?


    1. Not sure Dougens,

      You can always search for the user Fullforce rugby on youtube, that account posts the games in full, including other internationals.

      1. Thanks Neil. I have found a workaround. You have to start watching the on demand game on the phone and the it will save as “continue watching” in the app on tv or pc.
        I’ll check out your suggestion though as well.

      2. Thanks Neil. I have found a workaround. You have to start watching the on demand game on the phone and the it will save as “continue watching” in the app on tv or pc.
        I’ll check out your suggestion though as well.

  14. Lions team for Stormers game on Saturday:

    British and Irish Lions: Hogg: Adams, Daly, Henshaw, Van der Merwe; Smith, Price, Sutherland, Cowan-Dickie, Furlong, Beard, Hill, Beirne, H Watson, Conan

    Replacements: George, Vunipola, Fagerson, AW Jones, Simmonds, Davies, Harris, Rees-Zammit

  15. I wonder how Finn’s recovery is going. Last Saturday Gatland said he would wear a boot for 5 days and then be re-assessed (presumably another scan). We should hear anytime now if he’s staying on tour or flying home. Even if he misses the first test next Saturday they might still keep him for the last two tests if they are happy with his progress.

  16. Great chance for the Scots here with all still in contention for the 23 but good displays from the likes of Curryand Daly have put pressure on likes of Watson and Daly.Much easier opposition but not their fault they didn’t play against Sa A XV. Amazing how after that game Sutherland has gone from Test starter to not even on the bench in a lot of the (non-Scots) pundits/posters views! Fortunately Gatland appears to be putting out good noises about our lads though that may all change as he nears Test selection day.Lets hope for some top notch performances tomorrow.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion