WHAT a sad mess.
I don’t know what other people think, but for me, this British and Irish Lion’s tour to South Africa has done far more damage to the game of rugby union than good.
Perhaps those who thought the tour should not have gone ahead in the first place were correct.
So far, all we have witnessed is a rabble of midweek games, South Africa A excluded, where the Lions were completely hoodwinked by destroying teams that any decent AIL division side one would compete with.
We then had to endure a brand of rugby in the first test that can only be described as mind-numbingly uninspiring where both sides took the phrase 'safety first' to a new level of monotony. I realise the importance of winning, but if I wanted to watch something that put me to sleep, I could have watched Love Island.
The second half of the second test was a marginally better manifestation of rugby as we used to know it, but ultimately the outcome was determined by a man sitting in a box with the aid of a monitor and some slow-motion replays.
Soon the game won’t even need a referee on the pitch and there will be a TMO in place to watch over the TMO.
When will World Rugby realise that the constant interruptions and stoppages in play are harming the integrity of the game? And that when it takes 63 minutes to play 40, as happened in the first half of last week’s test, viewers will very quickly become disinterested.
Finally, and probably most importantly, it was very sad to see both sets of coaches take to social media to show their feelings on the matchday officials. This must be halted immediately by the blazers because if this is allowed to become the norm, referees will walk away, and it will filter down to the grassroots of the sport whom the professional game has already turned its back on.
God knows we have all played in and watched sporting occasions where the officials make incorrect calls. Is it frustrating?
When you agree to be involved in any kind of sporting contest where there is an adjudicator involved, you do so with the knowledge that mistakes will be made and there is nothing you can do about it.
What Rassie Erasmus did in his hour-long rant after the first test might have had a slightly different agenda attached to it, but if you filter through the smokescreen of technicalities and quoted laws what he did was to portray the referee as someone who favoured one team over the other and this is dangerous for many reasons.
With the series tied at one win apiece, tomorrow’s deciding test offers the Lions brand a final chance to salvage this tour and I just hope and pray that the game isn’t decided by an intervention from a man who could be sitting in a room a million miles away from the on-field action.
After last week’s catastrophic implosion by the tourists, Gatland, as only Gatland can do, has made some big calls and rolled the dice in an attempt to re-kindle his side’s chances of winning the series.
Six changes to his starting 15 and a further three to his bench will give his team a much-needed injection of freshness and hopefully, they will look to take the relative risks that are associated with making history.
The inclusion of Bundee Aki is great for the Connacht man however, he is just too similar in how he plays to Robbie Henshaw. I have no issues with one bulldozer but, having two will only make defending their channels of attack far too easy for the Boks to defend.
In order for the Lions to win, they must be prepared to hold on to the ball, build phases, and keep their hosts second-guessing their every move.
If they continue to carelessly box-kick the leather off the ball, not only will South Africa win, but I will be delighted that they did so.
Dan Bigger, who retains the number 10 jersey has done very little in the previous two tests and I would have opted for Scotland’s Finn Russell to pull the strings and guide the pack around the field for this one.
Russell is probably best described as a maverick of sorts and he has the skill level to make game-defining moments out of nothing. On the flip side he also has the ability to lose a game with one stupid moment of madness, but what he has is balls and he is not afraid to think outside the box.
Before last week’s game, it was deemed that South Africa would have no chance of toppling this Lions side and now the tide has completely turned, and it is the Lions that have no chance.
This is a great example of just how fickle sport can be and there are many lessons to be learned from it.
You would think that momentum is firmly with the Springboks, but if Alun Wyn Jones and Courtney Lawes can find parity with their opposite numbers, this game might be closer than most would think.
I predicted a 2-1 victory to South Africa before it started, but I thought those two wins would have been obtained by now and that the Lions would win the final game.
I’ll be gutted if sparks don’t fly in this game. SA to win.