Phil Edwards pays tribute to the hardy fans who braved the stormy conditions in Cape Town.
Last Updated: 24/06/09 2:04pm
There's an old saying in Cape Town at this time of the year. Apparently, if you can see the top of Table Mountain it's going to rain, and if you can't see the top of Table Mountain it's already raining.
Talking about the weather, while we were at the match against the Emerging Springboks it seemed as though the world was about to end. I'm not sure whether it came across clearly on TV, but the torrential rain and gale-force winds, which came and went throughout the eighty minutes with alarming regularity, made it almost impossible to play a decent game of rugby. I felt sorry for those players hoping to give the selectors pause for thought ahead of the second test. I also felt sorry for the thousands of Lions supporters getting rained on from a great height.
Mind you it didn't stop them showing their support. Special mention must go to Dan Shaw and his mates. I'm sure you will have seen pictures of them in papers and magazines back home. They each paint a letter on their chests then stand in the correct order to spell out the name of the player they most admire at any particular stage of the tour. Earlier in the campaign it was Tommy Bowe, last night at Newlands it was John Hayes. I think you can guess where they come from. I'd just like to see them honour Donncha O'Callaghan one day. Now that would be a challenge!
All the talk in the camp this week has been about the possible changes ahead of the second test. Some people you talk to want to rip up the script and start again making changes all over the place. Personally I think this could be counterproductive. Sure, there are cases for changes to be made at 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11 and there is an injury concern at 15, but let's not get too carried away.
Lee Byrne has been seen limping around the team hotel, so you'd imagine that his place might have to be taken by Rob Kearney. Having said that, he might have been play-acting just to confuse the press, which I can assure you is far easier than most people think. I reckon the other changes will come (understandably) at hooker and tight-head prop, and maybe left wing as well; Luke Fitzgerald might have done just enough to dislodge Ugo Monye, whose finishing at Kings Park came in for a bit of criticism.
While we're on the subject, most of the Irish journalists on the tour believe Ronan O'Gara ought to take over at fly-half from Stephen Jones, while their English counterparts are a little concerned that just one of their countrymen looks like making it into the starting XV in Pretoria. As you can imagine the Welsh boys are feeling pretty smug, while the Scottish hacks keep steering the conversation towards Wimbledon and some bloke called Murray.
As I write these words, none other than Willie John McBride is having coffee at the next table. In fact, were you to chuck a rock in the hotel bar most nights it would probably hit several ex-internationals and half a dozen former Lions. We were trying to see whether we could make up an entire team of veterans, but we can't quite manage it. There are backs here aplenty, which means bags of competition for places. So far the half-backs are Gareth Edwards and Jonathan Davies, with a midfield of Jeremy Guscott and David Irwin. The back three are Jason Robinson, Gavin Hastings and Ieuan Evans.
In the pack, John Fiddler and McBride are your engine room; Gareth Chilcott and Jason Leonard are the props, while Roger Uttley and John Taylor and David Pickering are the back-rowers. Unfortunately, it seems the tour is short of hookers. Which, on reflection, is a sentence I never thought I'd write.
Phil's Second Test XV: Lee Byrne/Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Luke Fitzgerald, Stephen Jones, Mike Philips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.