Scott Gibbs has berated the lack of personality, penetration and guile shown by the Lions in the Test series and warned they could be eaten up by the Springboks in Saturday’s decider.
The former Wales centre was one of the heroes of the last Lions series victory in South Africa in 1997.
But he doesn’t see Warren Gatland’s team following suit, as he predicts the Boks to come out on top.
The 58-cap Gibbs has been giving his thoughts about the Lions’ performances so far on the SARugbyMag website.
“There’s been a distinct lack of personality,” he said.
“The footprint they have tried to implement in the Test series really hasn’t mirrored the early endeavours in terms of the type of football we have seen.
“They have failed to make any type of significant penetration through the first line of defence.
“They haven’t even created enough chaos in the wide channels to force a secondary scramble defence from the ‘Boks.
“It’s been quite alarming. It’s been very much attritional and north-south.
“There has been a lack of guile, a lack of disguise.
“If you read the body language of Gatland walking around the field before the second Test, that looked like a coach that was unsure as to how it was going to play out.
“In the four halves we have seen, there has been a distinct lack of endeavour in trying to open up the game from a fluidity perspective with some width, creation and deception and trying to isolate those one-on-ones.
“Clearly there has to be more of a bold approach and backing their own confidence so we don’t see the complete capitulation we saw in the second half last week when they lacked ideas and direction.
“If the game gets stuck in the middle 30 of the field, then the ‘Boks are just going to eat them up all day long.”
Gatland has made six changes from the 27-9 second Test defeat, with Welsh quartet Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Wyn Jones and Ken Owens coming into starting line-up.
“We knew there were going to be changes and that they would give us an idea of the identity of the Lions team going into this decider,” said Gibbs.
“This is probably what the first Test side should have looked like.
“There’s a much-needed change in the back three because of the erratic-ness of last week’s performance and also the insecurity it provided in the first Test, so Williams and Adams get their shots.
“Liam is very good under the high ball, one of the great counter-attacking full-backs.
“Josh Adams, up until the week before the first Test, was the shining light in a Lions jersey.”
On his own playing position, Gibbs said: “Gatland looks to have gone back to kind of an element of safety with Bundee Aki joining Robbie Henshaw in the midfield.
“There is huge onus on them to get across the gain-line.
“The Lions have knocked on the ‘Boks door, but it has been fortified, there have been no gifts.
“If you look at Aki and Henshaw, they are just going to continue to hit and be hit by the sterling midfield defence of the Boks.
“Duhan van der Merwe retaining his place just strikes me they want to rely on more of a carrying presence.
“I expect it to be another attritional type of performance.
“It does concern me that it will be a performance based on we have to match fire with fire.
“I think that’s going to be a very tall order for the Lions.”
There are some significant changes among the replacements, including a call-up for gifted Scottish fly-half Finn Russell.
“The bench is more explosive, with the inclusion of Finn Russell to create deception and to create some opportunities that may be a game breaker,” said Gibbs.
“If Russell gets some game-time, it means the Lions will try to play to win rather than play not to lose this Test.
“I would like to see him have 30-35 minutes, rather than coming on late in the last quarter to try and rescue it.
“But you can’t rely on bench players to come on to do something special to unlock the game. I just don’t think that is going to work. It may be their Achilles heel. That would feel like desperation to me.
“The Lions need to get out of the starting gate, go ahead and build, so you can see the influence the bench can make rather than just having a reactive decision to bring certain players on hoping that it’s going to get you results.
“They have to dominate from the start and that will be a tall order.
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“This Test will either be the get out of jail card, one of the most spectacular third Test series deciders we have seen from the Lions or one of the most disappointing 80 minutes of football in Lions history.”
Making his prediction, Gibbs said: “It’s going to take an extraordinary 80 minutes of football from the Lions to sneak this one.
“I just feel momentum has switched to the Boks and they seem to be far more comfortable in their own identity.
“That’s why I say the Lions have just lacked a personality.
“I still think Gatland thinks they can fatigue the Boks, but I just feel the Boks are looking a lot more comfortable in their own skin.
“They applied enormous pressure in the second half last week to unpick the Lions defence with those little worm balls that went through for the scoring opportunities.
“I think the Boks are going from strength to strength and they will want to repeat that second half and put their stamp on this Test series with a dominant win.
“I feel this is 5-7 point decider and I think the dominant performance will come from the ‘Boks.”
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