Monday, July 01, 2013

The Lions will struggle in the final, deciding Test

I was lucky enough to be at Ellis Park in 1997 for the third and final match between the British Lions and South Africa on that year's momentous tour. I was lucky for two reasons. First if was a privilege to attend a match at one of the world's finest sports stadiums. I was not disappointed. Secondly it was an honour to acclaim a truly great Lions team who came into the match 2-0 and are the last Lions team to win a series. Will Sam Warburton's 2013 team join them next Saturday? I doubt it.

At Ellis Park in 1997 the Springboks had a narrow 13-9 lead at half time. The Lions had played well but early in the second half it became clear that they had, wholly understandably, run out of steam. A long tour was taking its toll and South Africa eventually ran out 35-16 winners. It was no disgrace for the Lions but they were beaten by two main things. The Springboks were determined to get a consolation win and the cauldron of Ellis Park, in front of a fanatical home support, was the ideal place to do it. And the Lions, at the end of a long tour, were pretty knackered !

Roll forward to Sydney next Saturday - the stadium and the home support will not be unlike Ellis Park. The prize for the Wallabies is a series win so even more than the Boks in 1997 they will be up for it! And the Lions are, as they were in '97, at the end of a gruelling tour which has seen many withdrawals from the squad through injury, including now (it seems likely) their captain. The hype will be there and the support will be great. And there will be no lack of motivation that's for sure. But can the Lions raise their game for one last supreme effort? It will be a remarkable achievement if they can - but the odds are against it. I hope I'm wrong. 

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