x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Lions go for pride

The British & Irish Lions go into today's final Test match seeking to avoid becoming the first Lions team to be white-washed in a series in South Africa.

Wynand Olivier, left, will be in the South Africa side to take on the Lions today.
Wynand Olivier, left, will be in the South Africa side to take on the Lions today.

JOHANNESBURG // The British & Irish Lions go into today's final Test match seeking to avoid becoming the first Lions team to be white-washed in a series in South Africa. The Springboks, in turn, are hoping to shake off the negativity that surrounded last week's Test by producing a compelling display at Johannesburg's Ellis Park.

The spiteful build-up has centred around four things: Schalk Burger's dangerous play in Pretoria, coach Peter de Villiers' crass reaction to the criticism, arguments over whether the Lions had congratulated the Boks and the re-worked teams that see the Lions and South Africa having made 10 and seven changes respectively. "We want to move on from what happened last week. We want to be positive and play the best rugby we can and win this Test," said the Lions coach Ian McGeechan.

There have been some epic matches between the two sides at the ground since 1938, but the Boks have a form grip on the record with three wins, two draws and a defeat. Ellis Park is something of a fortress for them, with their winning record at the iconic ground at just over 70 per cent. One of the key men will be inside centre Wynand Olivier, who finally gets his chance after an outstanding Super 14. This chance represents an opportunity to emphasise his value to the team.

"I feel I haven't really played a big Test for the Boks, so hopefully people will remember me as a player who played a very good game against the Lions," he said. He is pleased that he will be in tandem with Bulls teammate Morné Steyn, who will start his first Test at flyhalf. While the Boks start as favourites, McGeechan is adamant his men will put up a fight. "This is a new Test match and the players out there will want to respond very positively and if we play well enough to win it will be a very sweet victory. We gave the players a break this week but we are back to it now and we are keen to finish off with a win," he said.

cvanderberg@thenational.ae