South Africa v British and Irish Lions, Second Test 2021: Match Preview

KO 5.00pm at Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Saturday 31st July 2021

Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Action

The pressure is now on South Africa and the hosts have no margin for error with the series on the line this weekend. The Lions have emerged victorious in the opening Test against the Springboks on six occasions. Only once have South Africa been able to come back and win the Second Test – in 1955 (that four match series ended in a 2-2 draw).

Tale of the tape

54   Tries   85
   Average weight   96kg
238   Total caps   421
29.3   Average age   29.4

927kg   Pack weight   919kg
   Tries   39
365   Total caps  514
29.5   Average age   29.3

177   Total caps   460
   Tries   51
27.7   Average age   29.9

Changes to the starting XVs from the First Test

South Africa:

  • 1. Kitshoff for Nche
  • 3. Malherbe for Nyakane
  • 8. Wiese for Smith


  • 13. Harris for Daly
  • 9. Murray for Price
  • 1. Vunipola for Sutherland

15 Willie le Roux
14 Cheslin Kolbe
13 Lukhanyo Am
12 Damian de Allende
11 Makazole Mapimpi
10 Handre Pollard
Faf de Klerk

ADV Lions
ADV Springboks
ADV Springboks
ADV Lions
ADV Springboks

15 Stuart Hogg
14 Anthony Watson
13 Chris Harris
12 Robbie Henshaw
11 Duhan van der Merwe
10 Dan Biggar
Conor Murray

Steven Kitshoff
Bongi Mbonambi
Frans Malherbe
Eben Etzebeth
Franco Mostert
Siya Kolisi (c)
Pieter-Steph du Toit
Jasper Wiese

ADV Lions
ADV Springboks
ADV Lions
ADV Lions
ADV Springboks

Mako Vunipola
Luke Cowan-Dickie
Tadhg Furlong
Alun Wyn Jones (c)
Maro Itoje
Tom Curry
Courtney Lawes
Jack Conan

16 Malcolm Marx
17 Trevor Nyakane
18 Vincent Koch
19 Lood de Jager
20 Marco van Staden
22 Herschel Jantjies
23 Damian Willemse
21 Kwagga Smith

ADV Springboks
ADV Lions
ADV Lions
ADV Lions
ADV Lions

16 Ken Owens
17 Rory Sutherland
18 Kyle Sinckler
19 Tadhg Beirne
20 Taulupe Faletau
21 Ali Price
22 Owen Farrell
23 Elliot Daly

Numbers from the First Test

–  South Africa’s tight 5 made just 16 metres from their 20 carries (their Lions’ counterparts made 35m from 27 runs) in a rare case of the Springboks coming up against a side that could get close to matching their physicality.

–  The Lions’ back row only missed a single tackle – compared to 7 missed by the South African loose trio. The total error count (missed tackles + turnovers conceded + pens) for each group was Lions 6 – 17 Springboks.

– South African forwards passed or offloaded the ball 9 times across the 80 minutes (Lions – 32). The low risk nature of the Springboks’ game plan calls for direct confrontation and very little changing of the point of attack.

–  50% of Willie le Roux’s kicks were recovered by his own players – the best rate of any of the South African kickers. His bombs from midfield caused a lot of problems in the Lions’ wide channels.

–  The hosts conceded 14 penalties. That was an improvement on the 17 pens + free kicks (as well as 2 yellow cards) they gave up in the South Africa ‘A’ match but there was a continuation from that game of their inability to defend for multiple phases without committing offences.

–  The Springboks only won possession 6 times in the Lions’ 22. The 3 occasions South Africa crossed the try line (1 scored, 2 chalked off by the TMO) all came from big errors by Lions’ players. If the visitors can cut out the mistakes then the home side will need to find a bit more creativity this week to get into try-scoring positions.

Scot Watch

–  Six starts for Scottish backs in a Test series is the equal most since 1983 when Roy Laidlaw, Roger Baird and John Rutherford combined for 8 starts across 4 matches in 1983 against New Zealand.

–  In the last 50 years the only other Lions’ Test series to feature 6 different Scottish players were 1989 against Australia (Gavin Hastings, Scott Hastings, Craig Chalmers, David Sole, Derek White and Finlay Calder) and 1983 against New Zealand (John Rutherford, Roger Baird, Roy Laidlaw, Jim Calder, Iain Paxton and John Beattie).

–  Stuart Hogg will make his 11th appearance in a match for the Lions. Tom Smith (13) is the only Scot to feature in more games in the pro era.

–  Chris Harris is the first Scot to start a Lions’ Test series match in the centres since Scott Hastings against Australia, 15 July 1989 – a gap of 32 years.

–  Duhan van der Merwe makes his 6th start of the tour. In the professional era, the only other Scottish back to match that feat on a single tour is Gregor Townsend (South Africa, 1997).


– Just to confirm this is likely to be a once in a lifetime experience for these players, even the youngest member of the Springboks’ lineup – Damian Willemse – will be 35 by the time the Lions’ are next due to tour South Africa in 2033 (Alun Wyn Jones will be 47 and will surely have stopped playing by then?!?)

Jasper Wiese and Marco van Staden are the only players in the South African 23 who were not part of their World Cup winning squad.

– Elliot Daly is the only player selected for all 7 of the Lions’ games in South Africa.

– Steven Kitshoff has started in just 12 of his 49 caps. South Africa have only won 4 games with the ginger prop in the number 1 jersey and his defeats include 1 match v England and 2 games against Wales.


Referee:  Ben O’Keeffe (NZR)
Assistant Referee 1: Nic Berry (RA)
Assistant Referee 2: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)

The two Antipodean refs swap roles this week. Will the overturning of the red card Mr O’Keeffe issued to Marika Koroibete in the recent Australia v France series have any impact on how he officiates head contact in this Test match?

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When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

21 comments on “South Africa v British and Irish Lions, Second Test 2021: Match Preview

  1. Andyc on

    Looking forward to this. Could be Russell in as well as HIA could go either way. I think this a strong possibility Mako Won’t last much longer then 50 mins I think. Big role for Sutherland

  2. TENC on

    “50% of Willie le Roux’s kicks were recovered by his own players – the best rate of any of the South African kickers. His bombs from midfield caused a lot of problems in the Lions’ wide channels.”

    For me that is a very concerning statistic. I think that head to head might be ‘even’ at worst, or ADV SA. Hogg love him as we do, was not as influencial as WLR, based in that stat IMO . Just saying, before I get accused of being am English , Welsh or Irish pundit with a grudge against the plucky scots.

    • Merlot on

      TENC – the stat is indeed concerning, but you are wrong that this is relates to Hogg – he only missed/failed to win one high ball. As did Antony Watson, DVDM, Biggar and Williams – one each.
      In terms of head-to-head Hogg did not kick as many high balls – instead going for distance and/or territory. Dan Biggar was the Lions “Garryowen” maestro in the game.

      • Fraser on

        Yes, stats don’t tell the whole story – completely different roles and Hogg doesn’t do a lot of up and unders.

        Also you can argue that the kick recovery % is as much to do with the rest of the team as the kicker!

      • TENC on

        Merlot :I think you have a point, however I considered it already. As you can see the others who missed one high ball are either ‘Even’ or ‘Advantage SA’ in the H2H,(except Williams who was dropped). I have no idea how many high balls WLR missed to make a direct comparrison (I am sure someone will be straight back to tell me) , I just found it strange that the H2H did not seem align with the point made in the supporting comments. That is all.

        Hogg is implicity much better than WLR anyway, always was , always will be.

        Willie who ? Willie Le Roux , who has ever heard of him !

        PS : I am not ‘wrong’ , I just have another way of looking at it. What is wrong with that !

    • Kevin Millar on

      I take your point on le Roux but I think his garryowens are the only area he scores over Hogg. He also remains a distinctly secondary kicking option (ranking alongside Pollard) with de Klerk the dominant force for the Springboks in this area.

      The Lions do need to sharpen up their kick receptions as these are the kind of mistakes South Africa are looking to play off given they struggle to create an awful lot.

  3. Saint4805 on

    Did anyone else think there quite a few knock ons from high balls where the ref just allowed play to continue due to the fact that the ball ricocheted off a few hands and he probably didn’t see the first knock on?

    • Fraser on

      yes, but I don’t really have a problem with it. if it’s 50/50 for both teams and nobody really gets an advantage from it, sometimes it’s better to just play on that interrupt the flow of the game.

      It usually only happens in the middle 1/3 of the pitch – anything near the try line usually gets called back.

  4. Fraser on

    Looks like the last 20-30 minutes will be key again and our bench does look better on paper.

    Hope we can get a bit more of a platform in the first half this week though and give the backs a bit of decent ball (if for no other reason than to shut the VDM haters up for a while).

    • Kevin Millar on

      Based on the last few weeks – yeah. Kitshoff was ineffective at the scrum for 60 minutes for South Africa ‘A’, then ineffective (at best) at the scrum for 40 minutes in the First Test. He made 6 carries across those 2 games for 0 metres gained. Vunipola is still a good bit off his peak (which probably came 4 years ago) but he at least is moving in the right direction.

  5. Ting on

    This could apply of the Lions as well, nature of the game when you get a battle at the breakdown against SA but I find it really hard to see SA being that bad again in attack, they were really, really, poor, dull and unimaginative even by their standards, it hardly ever went beyond 12, Lions done very, very little with much imagination either.

    I would just expect a far more cohesive and structured attack from SA in particular this weekend, which is easier for them to implement due to the time and familiarity they have over the Lions who typically are always pretty stodgy in attack simply due to the time to build calls and reads.

    These games are also going to hugely hinge on the ref, get the wrong side of a ref at breakdown or scrum time, won’t take long to go tits up – could easily see that happening to Mako this week, recent history suggests last weeks scrummaging was the exception rather than the norm.

    This weekend I am more inclined to think SA will win with a bit to spare.

    • Kevin Millar on

      I’d say the South African attacking approach was pretty representative of their normal game. Unless there are some easy metres made they will kick after 2/3 phases and look to build a better position that way – trying to pressure the other side into mistakes at the kick reception or breakdowns.

  6. Fraser on

    Well, Rassie is officially crazy!

    No idea what he was thinking with his hour long rant…
    Personally – with a referee’s eye and trying to be objective – I thought that most of the key decisions were correct. Watson should have had a yellow for me, but otherwise it was fine. Also, over the whole game it averaged out about even between the teams ref-wise.

    SA fans/management don’t seem to be willing to let it go and move on to the next game, I’ve never seen anything like it – especially the complaints about the physical side of the game, coming from SA it is quite laughable.

    • BorderBadger on

      Agree that Watson should have seen yellow for that tackle. I also think Curry should have had a YC for his late shoulder charge on Faf. If that had been against us I’d have been howling for it!

      It’s funny how the social media gang aren’t talking about that one though.

  7. Seriously? on

    Let’s all be honest. If Finn doesn’t play will we ever know whether expansive rugby can beat them. Biggar is a total bore.

Comments are closed.