Lions coach Ian McGeechan hopes the energy of his fringe players will be enough to upset the Springboks at Ellis Park.
Eight changes have been made with two props and two centres brought in because of injuries. England front-rankers Andrew Sheridan and Phil Vickery come in for Welshmen Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones. Jamie Roberts has failed to recover from a wrist injury joining midfield partner Brian O’Driscoll on the Lions’ lengthy crocked list. As a result, Tommy Bowe moves to No 13 to pair up with Riki Flutey.
Jamie Heaslip is the only back row survivor from last week’s battle with David Wallace and Tom Croft replaced by Martyn Williams and Joe Worsley respectively.
McGeechan said it would be a big challenge for these new combinations to gel, but is confident the new-look side is equipped to beat the Boks.
‘We gave the players a break earlier in the week and it seems to have helped,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘There have been a lot of plusses to emerge from the previous Tests and we won’t go back on our approach or attitude. If we get enough right we will be within a shot of winning the game.’
Speaking specifically about injuries that have forced many of these changes, McGeechan admitted it’s a shame Roberts and O’Driscoll didn’t get a third opportunity to face the Boks. The centre-pair looked very dangerous in Durban and Pretoria.
‘They were still growing as a combination, and they were different players in terms of attributes and experience, but I really felt they brought the best out of one another. For a coach that was very satisfying to see.
‘Tommy Bowe has had a strong tour. He’s a strong runner with a good head on his shoulders. I know it’s a new combination but the Boks will also have to readjust.’
McGeechan said there were no injury concerns in the back row and this is why Wallace and Croft will come off a 5-2 bench in the second half. The Lions’ coach said Worsley deserved a start in this fixture.
‘Joe’s had a big tour. Unfortunately, the conditions have not always allowed him the opportunities he needs.
‘I’ll always pick a team that I feel are going to be the most effective on the day. Fresh legs are important and that is reflective in our selections.’
British & Irish Lions – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Ugo Monye, 13 Tommy Bowe , 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Paul O’Connell (c), 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Subs: 16 Ross Ford, 17 John Hayes, 18 Alun-Wyn Jones, 19 David Wallace, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Harry Ellis, 22 James Hook.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg