Scott Gibbs believes the Springboks have to physically take it to the British & Irish Lions to level the series and that if the Boks win on Saturday, they will win the series, writes Mark Keohane.
I chatted with Gibbs for Betway’s SA Rugby Magazine Lions series review of the first Test match and while he applauded the Boks aerial kicking game, which was effective for the first 40 minutes, he felt the Lions never had to front the brunt of the Boks physicality in contact.
Gibbs felt the Boks got early reward for Faf de Klerk’s kicking game, which they converted into a couple of penalties but as the game progressed he said the Boks needed to kick less and keep the ball more. He said that for the Boks to have momentum in a game their big ball runners have to have the ball. He appreciated everyone wanted to see the back three being explosive on attack but, first things first, he wanted to see the likes of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth, ball in hand, asking questions of the Lions defence at close quarters.
The first Test, which Gibbs described as a spectacle that lived up to all the hype, was one of margins, centimetres and interpretation. While he felt the Lions got better with time, he still didn’t think the Boks had given them the bruising they expected, especially defensively.
Gibbs, a veteran of three Lions tours, five Lions Tests, 15 Lions games, 50-plus Tests for Wales and also a rugby league international for Wales and Great Britain, believes Saturday’s second Test will reach the levels of physicality he observed in the 2009 second Test at Loftus in Pretoria.
‘That was one of the most physical matches I have watched and speaking to players from both sides, it was one of the most physical they have played. More of the same for Saturday,’ Gibbs told me.
Gibbs also felt that whoever won Saturday’s Test won the series.
‘The Lions will be seeing this as their final; the one they have to close out. If the Boks win, they have the momentum going into the third Test and I don’t see the Lions clawing it back. Saturday, for me, is the series decider.’
Gibbs, in our chat below, spoke at length about the Lions, what he felt worked and where they could improve in terms of play and selection and he also gives his view on the Boks.