Friday 30 July 2021 9:00 am

Ollie Phillips: Rassie Erasmus rant shows how huge second Test is - and that Lions coach Warren Gatland has got under his skin

If you needed any further proof of how big the second Test between the British and Irish Lions and South Africa is this weekend, look no further than Rassie Erasmus.

The Springboks’ director of rugby this week issued a bizarre, hour-long video rant about refereeing decisions in the Lions’ first-Test win, even hinting he could walk away mid-series.

Erasmus knows that to get the win they need to keep the series alive, his team will need the rub of the green from the officials, which it’s true that they didn’t get last week.

He’s a passionate guy and clearly upset. But while this might succeed in putting pressure on the referee and TMO, I’m not sure it’s what his players need.

Just when they are required to be cool, calm and collected, Erasmus is adding yet more fuel to the fire of this hotly-contested series.

If I was Lions boss Warren Gatland, meanwhile, I’d be loving this. Gatland has got under the skin of Erasmus and will feel he’s got his number.   

Lions will try to suffocate Springboks in second Test

The Lions were brilliant last week at keeping the ball in play and therefore denying a breather to opponents whose lack of recent Test match rugby was always likely to catch up with them.

Judging by Gatland’s team selection, they won’t change their game plan and will again set out to suffocate the Springboks.

I love that Gatland is never afraid to make changes and I think the three he has announced for the second Test are mostly spot on.

The Lions looked better when Conor Murray came on for Ali Price last week. He gave them more control where Price lacked precision with the height and length of his kicking and Murray will be tasked with doing the same from the start.

Elliot Daly has been dropped to the bench after a faltering display for the Lions in the first Test
Elliot Daly has been dropped to the bench after a faltering display for the Lions in the first Test (Getty Images)

Elliot Daly had good moments but gave away two penalties and missed a shot at goal, so it is no surprise to see him replaced with Chris Harris, who has had an outstanding tour so far.

Rory Sutherland perhaps pays for his inexperience in this intensity of match, although it is a slight surprise to see Mako Vunipola come in.

The Lions have looked vulnerable at the scrum, and Vunipola is no stranger to flak in that department. This may go some way to explaining why Luke Cowan-Dickie has been retained in the XV.    

Why part of me is hoping for a South Africa win

The first Test wasn’t always a great spectacle for the neutral but it was an enthralling contest and, as an ex-player, I loved the arm-wrestle it became. 

Although the Springboks struggled to find any continuity in their play, the Lions kept giving them opportunities and must have been frustrated to trail at half-time.

In the second half the tourists took the game by the scruff of the neck and came from 12-3 down to win 22-17.

Alun Wyn Jones made a big call in deciding to kick for the corner soon after the break but it paid off with a try, and that’s why he is the captain.

Part of me would like South Africa to win on Saturday and keep the series alive going into the third and final Test next week.

The Springboks will be sharper for having the first Test under the belts and their approach will be to target the set-piece, milk the penalties and try to get territory.

But I think that the Lions are shrewd enough to know what’s coming and will have enough quality to win again and take an unassailable lead.

Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development & behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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