SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Rassie Erasmus proves to be a bad distraction for South Africa while Warren Gatland is all business… the adjustments he has made to his Lions team all make sense and have clear logic
- Rassie Erasmus appears to be a distraction for South Africa at the moment
- By comparison, Warren Gatland was focused as he prepared to try and win
- His changes to the Lions team for Saturday all make sense and have a clear logic
- No 9 Conor Murray is a master at taking the sting out of a high octane game
While Rassie Erasmus is getting all hot and tricky on Twitter, the Lions have focused on making their main roster of the tour correct.
Erasmus proves to be a distraction for South Africa, while Warren Gatland has been a statesman as he prepares a team to close out the series.
Neither side produced their A-game last week – not for the full 80 minutes – so I’m not surprised the Lions made a few adjustments. The old adage about not changing a winning team is tempting, but not if you’re convinced that a few changes can improve performance.
Rassie Erasmus turns out to be a distraction for South Africa if they want to beat the Lions
The Lions can improve significantly from last week and Gatland, with all his experience, will know that. He won’t be fooled by the feel-good factor of a famous win.
The job is only half done and he has to use other weapons in his arsenal to finish it.
The Boks will do better on Saturday, although it remains to be seen whether they will be clearly different in approach. Gatland wants to be prepared for anything.
So the three Lions start crew changes all make sense and have a clear logic. Chris Harris must have been incredibly close to getting the kink in the first Test and is in top form. He simply lost because of the added offensive threat Elliot Daly felt for Gatland.
Daly didn’t fail, but the Lions didn’t use him effectively in the first half. Meanwhile, the only part of the Boxing game that was completely okay was to crash the great Damian de Allende through the midfield. There will be a lot more of that this week and Harris is probably better equipped to defuse that threat.
Erasmus was accused of using a fake Twitter account after responding to an anonymous user who outlined ‘dubious phone calls’
He retweeted a video uploaded by the user highlighting incidents that were not to their liking
However, Harris is not a one-dimensional player. He always seems sharp and sharp on the attack to me. Gatland has taken the precaution of keeping Daly on the bench. Why wouldn’t you? He has started test games three positions behind the scrum and has a monstrous left foot when you have to go long distance late in the game.
Meanwhile, arguably the biggest bonus for the Lions was the resurgence of Mako Vunipola, who appeared to be getting his mojo back as he came off the bench in the second half. His body language was different and he was a force of nature again, so with Wyn Jones seemingly still unavailable, it’s no surprise that Gatland remembers a player he always liked.
Erasmus turns out to be a distraction for South Africa, as Warren Gatland enters the second test as a statesman
The final roster – Conor Murray at scrum half – will have been the most difficult in my opinion.
Ali Price has done very well on this tour and was good again last Saturday. It would have been easy to keep him, but after a bad game against South Africa, a Murray – like Mako – looked a lot more like his real self when he came into the first Test and has plenty of experience. Like Mako, Gatland has learned to trust him.
Murray at his best – and I’m thinking the Murray who led Ireland to a comfortable win over England in the last Six Nations game – is a master at taking the sting out of a high-octane game and delivering the cutthroat clap when necessary.
He occasionally exaggerates the box kick and he needs to be more accurate when using it, but I can see Murray doing a good job. He has a score to settle with Faf de Klerk after finishing second in that South Africa A match and the Munsterman will be on the lookout.
The Lions squad is clearly close and united and win the series the common goal. No matter what. Everyone participates in that.
That’s why players like Liam Williams, a brilliant player who must have been neck and neck with Stuart Hogg to start as a fullback, will take his omission from the squad completely on the chin.
Rory Sutherland made himself and Scotland proud, but he too will suck his relegation to the bench, as will Daly.
Chris Harris must have been very close to getting the wink in the first test and is in great shape
Finally, a short word of praise for the sevens participants in the Olympic Games. I immersed myself in the tournament. Many of the programs have lost money and survived adversity, and they are all proud of themselves. Had there been crowds, this would be the most popular ticket in town.
On Tuesday I was transfixed as Great Britain came back from a 21-0 deficit in the first half to beat the USA in their quarter-finals and then I was open-mouthed when Argentina, who were early in the first half to six man was brought back, somehow discovered the energy to beat South Africa.
Phenomenal stuff, but that’s what happens when you have so much passion and pride around a match.