‘Still plenty to play for’ says Andrews

The third and final Test between the Springboks and the 2009 British & Irish Lions might be a dead rubber in terms of the series outcome, but former Bok star Mark Andrews argues that the pride at stake between two proud rugby teams should not be discounted come Saturday. [more]

‘Still plenty to play for’ says Andrews

The third and final Test between the Springboks and the 2009 British & Irish Lions might be a dead rubber in terms of the series outcome, but former Bok star Mark Andrews argues that the pride at stake between two proud rugby teams should not be discounted come Saturday.

The hosts are 2-0 up ahead of this weekend’s series finale in Johannesburg, having won the first two games in Durban (26-21) and Pretoria (28-25) – both of which were hard-fought encounters with plenty of drama-filled moments.

But, as Andrews points out, no Springbok team has ever whitewashed a Lions side in a Test series and the visitors would no doubt want to avoid joining the Class of 2005 that was unceremoniously ‘Blackwashed’ by the Kiwis last time out.

"Don’t underestimate the value of pride and egos," explained Andrews, "in that respect there is still plenty to play for (on Saturday).

"In fact, there is lots to play for, for both teams, as there was in 1997 when we were 2-0 down going into the final Test – ironically also in Johannesburg."

Andrews, a 77-Test veteran, believes the 2009 Boks-Lions series has been an "interesting" contest thus far… and he is expecting much the same at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday afternoon.

"It’s funny, you know," began Andrews. "In 1997 we played all the rugby, outscoring the Lions by nine tries to three; yet we lost the series to some good goal-kicking and a late drop-goal.

"Now, 12 years later we were outplayed in the final 30 minutes in Durban and the first 50 minutes in Pretoria – yet, a last-minute kick handed us a series win with one Test to play. I won’t lie, I quite enjoyed the irony of it all – it’s a bit of payback for ’97 when the shoe was well and truly on the other foot!"

"Mark

Mark Andrews knows more about South African rugby than most

Much like in 1997, when there was plenty of pressure on the then new Springbok coach Carel du Plessis, plenty of focus on 2009 has been on Bok boss Peter de Villiers.

Only this time, the pressures are of a different variety.

The Bok coach, who took over from Jake White at the start of 2008, has been under fire for some of his post-match comments in the aftermath of Schalk Burger’s yellow card – and subsequent eight-week suspension – for eye gouging in the second Test.

"With regards to Schalk, what’s done is done," said the former Sharks stalwart rather firmly, "the Bakkies (Botha) suspension, however, is a different story altogether.

"I think people are missing the point in still focusing on Schalk’s incident…Bakkies has been harshly dealt with, he shouldn’t have been punished for a legitimate clean out at a ruck.

"(Springbok assistant coach) Gary Gold has said he coaches his players to clean out in that way…Yet, now, because somebody has picked up an injury, Bakkies has been punished. I think whoever cited him, and suspended him, is setting a dangerous precedent."

At the time of writing, Botha was still in with a shout of being named in the Bok line-up for Saturday’s series finale, as De Villiers and co. have appealed his two-week suspension.

And, looking ahead to this final battle in Johannesburg, Andrews is expecting the home side to prevail once again.

"There are two reasons to back the Boks on Saturday," said Andrews, who famously played at No8 in the 1995 World Cup Final against New Zealand – despite having played all his senior rugby in the second row up till then.

"Firstly, Ellis Park is always a happy hunting ground for the Boks. And, secondly, I think the Boks will be under far less pressure than the Lions and they will – as a result – be able to play more rugby and express themselves out there.

"I remember in 1997 when we went into the last Test 2-nil down…There was plenty of pressure on us to avoid the whitewash and I think the Lions will feel similar pressures – especially after also losing 3-0 to the All Blacks in 2005.

"Either way, it should be a good match, as both teams will have a go, but I’m expecting the Boks to take it and make it 3-0."

"Mark

Andrews is glad to see SA exacting revenge for the 1997 loss to the Lions

Andrews played his Test-match rugby between 1994 and 2001 and he remains the sixth most-capped Springbok (and fourth most-capped forward) in the history of South African rugby.

A colossus in SA’s 1995 World Cup win, a member of the Bok squad that went down to the Lions in 1997, a Tri-Nations veteran and a key man for the Boks in the 1999 World Cup; Andrews, now 37, is better qualified than most to speak about the South African Class of 2009.

"This series has been a good way of preparing the Springboks for the Tri-Nations," he began, "but make no mistake – it’s been hard and the Boks have played well in patches only.

"The Aussies and the Kiwis, on the other hand, have played lower profile matches and the Wallabies, in particular, have gone about their business rather quietly.

"It’s not very normal for New Zealand to lose a ‘warm-up’ Test in June, before the Tri-Nations, but they like being the underdogs and talking up the opposition, only to hammer you by 20 points on the Saturday! They will ask some questions of themselves in the meantime, but make no mistake… they will always be a factor come the Tri-Nations."

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