Ronan O’Gara: South Africa now favourites for Lions series as plan A pays off

O’Gara believes Warren Gatland will have to make changes if the Lions are to win the series next weekend
Ronan O’Gara: South Africa now favourites for Lions series as plan A pays off

South Africa's Lukhanyo Am wins a ball in the air, an area they dominated against the Lions. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ronan O’Gara believes South Africa are now strong favourites to win the Test series and he warned the British & Irish Lions they don’t stand a chance in the decider unless they sort out their aerial game.

The Lions were taken to the cleaners physically by the Springboks as they were beaten 27-9 in the second Test - a result which levels the series at 1-1. Warren Gatland’s back three of Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe, and Anthony Watson were taken apart in the air. 

There will be loud calls for Wales pair Liam Williams and Josh Adams to come into the side and O’Gara believes head coach Gatland will have to make changes if the Lions are to win the series next weekend.

“There can be no complaints from the Lions,” said Munster and Ireland legend O’Gara in his role as a Sky Sports pundit.

“This was a big defeat and I think it’s a major advantage to South Africa. I say that because I think they have an established game plan that they have huge trust in.

“It’s one thing knowing the ball is coming in the air. What the Lions need to do this week is they not select wingers or back three players who are good on the counter-attack.

“I think they have to select people who are good in the air. The subject matter is winning the ball in the air against South Africa because their plan A is kick, kick, kick.

“They scored two tries from attacking kicks, but they ruled the air this afternoon. Unless the Lions can sort that out it will be the same result again.

“If you don’t take your chances at this level, it will come back to bite you. The game was there for the taking in the first half and then all of a sudden South Africa got confident and then they found their rhythm and their flow.

“They have a good scrum, an excellent maul, and a really good kicking game. That will not change next week.” 

After a controversial build-up which saw South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus release a remarkable hour-long video criticising the performance of first Test referee Nic Berry, the Springboks were one step ahead of the Lions in every aspect of play.

Despite a promising first 40, the Lions were beaten up physically and struggled to get into the game at all after half-time where they failed to score. While O’Gara insists South Africa are now the likeliest winners of this series, he believes the world champions will find it very difficult to reach the same emotional level in Cape Town next Saturday.

He said: “I think Sam Warburton’s point about the hunter and the hunted was very interesting.

“These boys will be raring to go with the biggest carrot of their careers in front of them. It’s about the clarity of your game plan and convincing your players that if you do A, B, and C very, very well I can’t guarantee you we’ll win but I can guarantee you we’ll have a very good performance.

“What’s striking me a little bit is that there was a maul try in the first Test yet none today. At this level three, six, nine, 12 doesn’t cut it because you are up against the greatest ever team of the three, six, nine pressure game in South Africa.

“I think what you need from your leaders and your coaching group this week is how we see going about beating South Africa. Have I got buy-in from you boys? And if we have, let's execute it.

“If we don’t believe in it then let's come up with a better plan”

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