Lions vs South Africa: Third Test preview

Warren Gatland’s touring side missed the chance to seal a first series win against the Springboks since 1997 last weekend, with the reigning world champions executing a familiar gameplan revolving around brutal physicality and aerial bombardments to win the second contest 27-9 thanks to tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am and 17 points from the boot of fly-half Handre Pollard.

The stage is set for an unmissable end to an ill-tempered series that has been high on controversy, both on and off the pitch.

Date, kick-off time and where to watch

The all-important Third Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions takes place on Saturday, August 7, 2021, with kick-off at 5pm BST.

Live coverage is available via Sky Sports Main Event (from 4pm) and Sky Sports Action (from 3:30pm), with highlights being broadcast free-to-air on Channel 4 at 10:30pm on Saturday evening.


After the opening Test in Cape Town, the final two matches of the series were due to take place in Johannesburg.

However, concerns over the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in the Gauteng region of South Africa led the entire series to be moved to the Cape Town Stadium – a football ground where the pitch has been notably churned up in both Tests so far.

Lions team news

Starting XV: Williams; Adams, Henshaw, Aki, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Price; Jones, Owens, Furlong, Itoje, A Wyn Jones (c), Lawes, Curry, Conan

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Vunipola, Sinckler, Beard, Simmonds, Murray, Russell, Daly

There are six alterations in total, including two in the front row with Welsh loosehead Wyn Jones and hooker Ken Owens replacing England duo Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie, who drop to the bench.

South Africa-born wing Duhan van der Merwe is the only member of the back three to retain his starting berth as Gatland seeks greater aptitude under the high ball, with Scotland captain Stuart Hogg and Anthony Watson dropped from the matchday squad altogether as Liam Williams comes in at full-back and the tour’s leading try scorer Josh Adams makes his Lions Test debut on the right flank.

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Bundee Aki also replaces Chris Harris in an all-Ireland midfield alongside Robbie Henshaw, while Gatland’s second-Test change at scrum-half is reversed as Conor Murray makes way for Ali Price.

Adam Beard, Sam Simmonds and Finn Russell all come onto the bench, with Owen Farrell and Taulupe Faletau missing out.

“The matchday 23 have an incredibly special opportunity in front of them – to seal a Lions series victory in South Africa,” said Gatland.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than this and we’re excited by the challenge that faces us on Saturday.

“We’ve no excuses from last week, the Springboks put us under pressure in the second half and deserved the win.

“We have to be much better than that second-half performance, and I believe we will be.”

South Africa team news

Starting XV: Le Roux; Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, Reinach; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, De Jager, Kolisi (c), Mostert, Wiese

Replacements: Marx, Nyakane, Koch, Van Staden, Smith, Jantjies, Steyn, Willemse

Influential scrum-half Faf de Klerk (leg muscle strain) and 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit (shoulder) both miss out with injuries sustained in a punishing Second Test.

Cobus Reinach deputises at 9, with Lood de Jager coming into the second row as Franco Mostert switches to the blindside.

South Africa have also gone back to a 5-3 bench split, with 37-year-old Morne Steyn – hero of the Lions series of 2009 – set to win his first cap since 2016.

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There is no place in the squad for Duane Vermeulen, despite the back row linking up with the team this week after returning from ankle surgery earlier than anticipated.

“This is a massive Test for us with the Castle Lager Lions Series on the line, so it was important for us to maintain consistency in selection following on last week’s performance,” said Nienaber.

“Pieter-Steph du Toit was ruled out due to the shoulder injury he suffered last week, but we are fortunate to have experienced players such as Franco and Lood who can step in and who have the physical presence we need in those roles.

“Cobus is also an experienced player with a calm head and who can handle pressure, and we believe he will be able to dictate play well alongside Handre Pollard, while Herschel Jantjies has been great in adding the necessary spark we need off the bench, and will be asked to fulfil that role again.”


Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

Assistant referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)

Assistant referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)


The second Test was essentially played out like the first in many ways, but in reverse.

Whereas the Lions made a really sluggish start to the opener and produced a brilliant second-half display to strike first, they were the ones who impressed initially last weekend before falling victim to a tried and trusted Springbok method of attack.

Gatland’s six changes are a clear attempt to deal better with that bruising physicality and endless kicking.

Expect the sheer intensity to be even more off the charts in such a high-stakes contest, but hopefully emotions don’t boil over into quite as many ugly incidents as the Second Test, when the first half took more than an hour to complete.

AFP via Getty Images

It will no doubt be another attritional war with not much free-flowing rugby to behold!

Hopefully the Lions can do it, but unfortunately there are not too many teams that can cope with the Springboks’ well-rehearsed gameplan once it’s in full flow.

South Africa 21-16 Lions.


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