RASSIE Erasmus is feeling the pressure.
Let there be little doubt about it that as the coach of the World Champions you will find that everything you do will be scrutinised to the nth degree and that this kind of microscopic examination has the ability to crush any man, no matter how shrewd or irrepressible he is.
This is also particularly prevalent in a country that uses sport as a political tool.
Most, including myself, expected the Springboks to emerge victorious after the first test. However, the Lions through a combination of having superior fitness levels, better use of possession in the second half and a much stronger bench managed to tilt the scales in their favour and now Erasmus and his players are backed into a corner that gives them little room for error.
The decision by Warren Gatland and his coaching ticket to include Conor Murray in the starting 15 for tomorrow’s second test indicates that the Lions are going to stick with the aerial bombardment approach that brought them success last week.
However, I would think that Erasmus and his players will be better prepared this time around.
South African rugby is, was and always will be based around winning the gain line and dominating at the breakdown but, last week the Springboks found that whatever they hurled at the Lions it was easily absorbed by players like Courtney Lawes and the immeasurable Maro Itoje.
Because of this and with Mako Vunipola starting from the off you would think that the hosts will be looking to play a more expansive game and try to move Gatland’s enforcers around the park.
When you have Cheslin Kolbe, the world’s best winger in your side, it seems like a very logical decision that you should try to get the ball in his hands as much as possible and perhaps look to involve him off set pieces.
If South Africa can find a way of getting him the ball in open space, he is virtually impossible to bring down.
During last week’s somewhat dull encounter we were given the impression that Erasmus didn’t trust his backs to create line-break opportunities because every time they gained possession, they recklessly just kicked it away which played a big part in the Lions dominating possession and more importantly territory in the second half.
Faf de Klerk, the Boks' golden-haired scrumhalf, spent way too long in distributing the ball from the breakdown last week thus, given the Lions defence all the time in the world to get organised and apart from two or three decisive advances by Munster’s centre, Damian de Allende, the world champions looked as imaginative as a group of U-10s playing rugby for the first time.
If South Africa are going to have any chance of tying the series and bringing it to a winner takes all in the final test next week, they will need to play a very diverse and unstructured brand of rugby against this Lions outfit whose defensive systems thrive off prearranged and slow plays.
Apart from one or two childish prods at the Lions via social media from Rassie Erasmus, the mind games have been rather monotonous and Gatland is way too grey to take any notice of them.
After last week’s defeat Erasmus spoke in praise of the Lions performance and should have left it at that but, in characteristic traits of a person who finds himself under colossal pressure, the former Munster coach seems to be looking for excuses long before the battle even begins.
Maybe he knows something that we don’t?
I would like to think the Lions might at least look at spreading the ball to their wingers at some point, however, do not be surprised if Murray and Dan Bigger have to change their boots at halftime because they will have the leather worn down to the laces from kicking the ball.
I guess the stakes are too high for them to take risks but, surely Gatland and his coaches can come up with something that will get our heart rates somewhat elevated.
The Lions should be good enough but, remember what happened the All Blacks before the 1995 World Cup final. South Africa are known for their win at all costs attitude.
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