Owen Farrell was the biggest beneficiary from a Covid enforced British & Irish Lions starting XV backline reshuffle with a flyhalf performance that will be difficult to ignore. In contrast Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch was terrible, writes Mark Keohane.
The Lions scored eight tries and predictably won by 40-plus point, as they had done against the Sigma Lions, but in this routine tour hit-out games it is all about the first Test selection for the British & Irish Lions, and Farrell, who started at inside centre in the tour opener, bossed the first 40 minutes at flyhalf against the Sharks.
Farrell had an indifferent Six Nations with England, but at Emirates Airline Park he showed every quality that has made him one of the most effective and celebrated No 10s in international rugby. Welshman Dan Biggar was initially selected to start at flyhalf and Biggar is being spoken of as the early favourite to start at flyhalf in the the first Test on the 24th July against the Springboks in Cape Town.
Farrell, who will definitely feature in the match 23, may have given Lions coach Warren Gatland something to reconsider. He was superb and controlled the flow of the game.
The gulf in class between Farrell and Bosch was obvious and it was like an under 15 kid playing a match against the 1st XV. So many, and I am among those, have for the past few seasons willed Bosch to succeed but defensively he is a liability against the quality of a team like the Lions and I can’t see Bosch easily playing Test rugby for the Springboks as a flyhalf. At best, possibly at fullback, but not in the No 10 jersey.
He looked petrified and terrified in the tackle, as did fullback Manie Libbok and winger Thaakir Abrahams, and none of the trio wanted anything to do with Lions wing Duhan van der Merwe and fullback Josh Adams as they trotted over for three tries each.
Mark Keohane, Scott Gibbs and the Moneyman picked a 35 point winning differential for the Sharks.
There wasn’t a heck of a lot to take from the game that wasn’t already known and only a handful of those Lions who started are likely to start against the Springboks. Of the three Lions starting XVs who have played in three successive matches, this one looked the most average, but they were still too potent and powerful for a limp Sharks outfit, who were outmuscled, outthought and outplayed.
Individually, wing Werner Kok, centre Marius Louw and No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi had moments and Buthelezi was strong in the carry, but the highlights were minimal for the sorry Sharks and the Lions played at their own tempo, took it up a few notches when they needed to and cruised when they wanted to.
The best thing about the match was the final whistle because it means the Lions can get out of Covid-ravaged Gauteng and get to Cape Town for what is likely to be the remainder of the tour.
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