All change – but ill-will lingers on

Vickery and Flutey make team for final Test as Lions and Boks make 18 switches
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The Independent Online

Ten changes for the Springboks, eight changes – one of them positional – for the British and Irish Lions: it is, as the tourists' head coach Ian McGeechan said yesterday, "a whole new Test match." Except that the atmosphere surrounding the final fixture of this 10-game trek through South Africa is as old as the hills that occasionally break up the brown monotony of the highveld. Not for the first time in Lions history, there is a feeling of hurt and injustice running through both camps. Whatever happens at Ellis Park tomorrow, the rugby will not have a soft centre.

Talking of centres, there will be four new ones on the field from the start: Tommy Bowe, moved inside from the right wing, and Riki Flutey for the visitors; Jaque Fourie, who scored the game-turning try off the bench in Pretoria last weekend, and Wynand Olivier for the Boks. If the Lions changed their midfield because they had no choice – Brian O'Driscoll is back in Dublin, Jamie Roberts is still nursing a wrist injury – the South Africans have done it because they can. The Lions will definitely be the weaker for their unavoidable tinkerings, the Boks just a little stronger.

"It's a big challenge for Tommy and Riki," admitted McGeechan, who knows a thing or two about midfield play, having been a series-winning centre in this country in 1974. "The centre partnership between O'Driscoll and Roberts was very powerful and was still growing in last week's Test until the two of them suffered injuries almost simultaneously. They enjoyed bringing out the best in each other, and to see them playing off each other in the way they did was very satisfying from a coaching point of view. Now, other people have the chance to play a Lions Test and make the most of it."

Two of the players most implicated in the major missed opportunity in the first Test in Durban, the prop Phil Vickery and the wing Ugo Monye, are back between the shafts, although Vickery's throat infection continues to be of concern to the medical team, who have yet to pass him fit. In Durban, the England front-rower finished a distant second to Tendai Mtawarira at the scrummage, making a humiliating retreat to the bench just after the interval, and was not included in the XXII for the meeting in Pretoria. However, McGeechan believes the West Countryman will punch his considerable weight here.

"I'm very confident for two reasons," the coach said. "Whatever issues we had with the way the scrum was refereed in the first Test were quickly clarified, and that led to a much more stable set-piece in the second match. Also, Phil is both a world-class prop and an outstanding tourist. When we picked Adam Jones for the Pretoria Test, Phil poured all his efforts into supporting him and by doing that, he kept himself close to what we were doing. He's a very proud rugby player, and he'll be fine."

Flutey, Shane Williams, Andrew Sheridan, Joe Worsley and Martyn Williams will be making their first starts of the series. The Boks, meanwhile, have introduced the uncapped full-back Zane Kirchner, the inexperienced wings Odwa Ndungane and Jongi Nokwe, the hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and the No 8 Ryan Kankowski. Morne Steyn, who landed the last-second winning goal from his own half at Loftus Versfeld, will be at No 10 from the kick-off; Heinrich Brussow returns for Schalk Burger, suspended for his nasty assault on the Irish wing Luke Fitzgerald; and the lock Johann Muller replaces Bakkies Botha, who yesterday lost his appeal against a two-week ban for dangerous play – a ruck incident that put the unfortunate Jones off the tour with a badly dislocated shoulder.

If the Springbok management had been confident of winning the Botha case, there was no great outburst of anguish; instead, their increasingly extraordinary head coach Peter de Villiers blamed the fraught events of the last few days on the travelling media. "We had negative media from Britain in 1974 and 1980, and now I've allowed it again in 2009. What a stupid bugger I am. I've learnt that if they can't win on the field, they'll try to win anywhere else they can." Charming.

Springboks v Lions: Teams for Ellis Park

South Africa

Tendai Mtawarira 1

Chiliboy Ralepelle 2

John Smit (capt) 3

Johann Muller 4

Victor Matfield 5

Heinrich Brussow 6

Juan Smith 7

Ryan Kankowski 8

Fourie du Preez 9

Morne Steyn 10

Jongikhaya Nokwe 11

Wynand Olivier 12

Jaque Fourie 13

Odwa Ndungane 14

Zane Kirchner 15

Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Deon Carstens, Steven Sykes, Pierre Spies, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Steyn

Lions

Andrew Sheridan 1

Matthew Rees 2

Phil Vickery 3

Simon Shaw 4

Paul O'Connell (capt) 5

Joe Worsley 6

Martyn Williams 7

Jamie Heaslip 8

Mike Phillips 9

Stephen Jones 10

Shane Williams 11

Riki Flutey 12

Tommy Bowe 13

Ugo Monye 14

Rob Kearney 15

Replacements: Ross Ford, John Hayes, Alun-Wyn Jones, David Wallace, Tom Croft, Harry Ellis, James Hook

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Kick-off: 2pm TV Sky Sports 1

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