Heads held high
Miles Harrison says the Lions want to show their style of rugby can lead to victory and not just gallant defeats.
Last Updated: 03/07/09 10:27am
Only pride left for the Lions
The British and Irish Lions will be desperate to win the final Test against South Africa and salvage some pride from losing a series they will feel they were good enough to win.
Two narrow defeats have given South Africa a unassailable 2-0 lead going into the third and final Test but Miles Harrison believes the Lions will want to show that their attacking style of rugby can lead to victory and not just gallant defeats
Has all the controversy in the second Test taken the shine off what was a superb Test match?
Miles replies: No, I don't think it does. I think when we look back at that game we will not remember the Schalk Burger incident or the things that were said after that. I think we will look back and remember an epic Test match. I appreciate the point though because in the immediate aftermath it does in a way because the story has not been what a great Test match but rather centered on the violent act from Burger and the comments made afterwards. Long term we won't remember it for what Burger did. The second Test was truly memorable and one of the best games I have ever been involved in a work sense - a truly great match and aside from the Burger incident it was thoroughly enjoyable
So there will not be any bad blood between the sides going into the final test?
MILES REPLIES: No, I don't think so. It has been vigorously denied. Ian McGeechan when asked on the issue said he had gone up to PDV twice after the game and congratulated him. Clearly the Lions were unhappy with what Burger did but I cannot think of a right minded rugby person who wouldn't be unhappy. There is absolutely no place in the game for that sort of act. That annoys people generally but it does not create bad blood between teams. The Lions are saying that they have had excellent relationship with the Springbok camp and I think they have had no issues. Obviously the Burger thing has surfaced but I am not sure all the players are aware of what has been said in the media. They went off tour so to speak at the beginning of the week and were allowed to get the loss out of their system. They did not start training again until Wednesday which I think is a good call from the management.
All change for Boks
Looking towards the third Test, South Africa have made a lot of changes; are you excited about some of their changes?
MILES REPLIES: I am. It has been a terrific series with two superb games of rugby. Those who have taken part in those games have done themselves proud and the sport proud. You get to game three with an air of, well let's face it, it is a bit of a dead rubber. This game cannot affect the outcome of the series therefore you hope for something a little bit different. And we have got that.
South Africa have made their changes for the right reasons, they are not disrespecting the Lions here at all. They have won this series and have a Tri- Nations to prepare for. They need to look at other players and see if different combinations work. It is the total right call to shake their team up and I think they have done that in a very exciting way.
I have been banging on about Jaque Fourie for some time now and his class was proven without doubt with that wonderful finish. He fully deserves his start as does Wynand Olivier who finished the Super 14 very well indeed. This is a stronger midfield than the Lions have been facing.
I am also very pleased for Morne Steyn, what a magnificent kick he got to win the second Test. With not even 40 minutes of international rugby he comes on and does that. I am delighted that he gets a chance alongside his Bulls team mate scrum-half Fourie du Preez.
The wings are also very exciting and in Jongi Nokwe and Odwa Ndungane they have two speedsters. They may not have the experience of Habana and JP Pietersen so maybe South Africa lose a little bit there but they add something fascinating to throw into the mix. Zane Kirchner at fullback will also see this as an opportunity to impress and is also very quick. We did not see the best of him in the emerging Springbok game - he can play a lot better than that. It is a very exciting backline for a South African point of view - a very potent mix that could gives a big clues to South Africa's future.
In the pack Heinrich Brussow finishes the series in his rightful place and I think he has been one of the finds for South Africa in this series.
The Lions have also made some changes but there are for very different reasons aren't they?
MILES REPLIES: They have made eight changes - four enforced and four by choice. I think the point that needs to be made - and this is no excuse but is undoubtedly a reason why they fell away from the form they were showing early on in the second Test - is because they lost both props. To lose Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones was a huge blow. Both were playing so well and they turned around what was obviously a weakness in the first Test into a strength. That took some doing. They were also getting around the pitch so well and in both men you never thought for one minute that they were going to be substituted. You could see them going all the way and putting in two of the great prop performances of all time in Lions jerseys. They were that close to creating something positive in Lions history. To lose them both at the same time was pretty catastrophic. For then to lose the centres so closely together as well - which was the partnership of the tour - was another bitter blow.
But that was last week and this is this week and it gives other players a chance. I suppose above all it is a chance for Phil Vickery to make up for what happened in the first Test. His damaged reputation must really be hurting him and I am delighted he gets a second chance. I would say ditto Ugo Monye for Vickery, he does not have the same reputation that Vickery has built up over the years but he would have also been pretty disappointed the way the first Test ended and will be another one out to redeem himself.
Lions will survive
How important is a win in the final test for the future of the Lions tour?
MILES REPLIES: A lot of people have said that the Lions cannot afford to go through another New Zealand experience. Well they haven't. It has been well run and regained that tour ethos that was lost in 2005. Because of the two tests and how close they were - let's face it there was not much between the two teams last week - I don't think there should be any question marks over future Lions tours even if they do lose 3-0. But a win is important because it would be nice to end this losing sequence here rather than have to do it in Australia in 4 years time. However the major motivation is built around the fact that these players believe that they have had a very good tour in all aspects apart from winning the series. They feel they have come very close and feel that they should at least be at 1-1 going into the final Test match. I think they have probably got a point.
They have played some wonderful rugby on this tour and they will want to leave with their heads held high. They will want to show what they have been all about on this tour. If it clicks and if they play some sensational rugby it could then take them to what would be a fantastic win. The problem though is that looking at this South African selection there seems to be an equal desire on the other side of the fence.