Eddie Jones: Sheridan should lead the attack on captain Smit

Calling the shots

The phoney war is almost over. When the Lions meet the Springboks in the first Test a week today, there will be a quantum leap in intensity.

Nothing the tourists have experienced since arriving in South Africa will bear the slightest resemblance to the magnitude of rugby or the scale of occasion they can expect on their return to Durban. This is always the case on a modern Lions tour, but the difference will be more dramatic than ever, thanks to a strangely muted programme of provincial fixtures.

Of course, when the itinerary was being planned, no one imagined the opening game in Rustenburg would clash with a Super 14 final down the road in Pretoria. There were also good local reasons for the relatively small crowd in Johannesburg, where the Ellis Park stadium is situated in a difficult part of town and transport is hard to find after dark. But gates were also a little disappointing in Bloemfontein last Saturday and in Durban on Wednesday night, and that must be down to the rocketing cost of tickets. English prices are being charged for these matches, and in tough economic times people tend to react negatively to a 150 per cent hike in face value.

Especially when the provincial teams are shorn of their box-office talent. I can understand the Springboks holding back those players pencilled in to start the first Test. But the Boks have 28 in camp at the moment, and I can't help feeling that the release of a dozen or so international-class operators back to the provinces would have transformed the quality of the action.

As it is, Ian McGeechan must base his decisions on the evidence available. I'd say we saw around 80 per cent of his Test side against the Sharks on Wednesday. The areas still under examination are the wings and the balance in the back five of the scrum, where selection will depend on how the coaches address some very obvious problems at the tackle area.

I also think there is a call to be made at loose-head prop, where the choice rests between an out-and-out heavyweight scrummager in Andrew Sheridan and a front-rower of the "third flanker" variety in Gethin Jenkins. I've said before that if the Springboks are serious about playing John Smit, their captain, at prop rather than hooker, they are presenting the Lions with a point of attack. I understand Jenkins' value around the field – certainly, his presence will boost the team's effectiveness in the loose – but a big psychological blow can be struck by getting after the opposing skipper and making his life difficult.

There are key individuals among the South Africans: the lock Victor Matfield and the scrum-half Fourie du Preez are two. Smit is very definitely another. Paul O'Connell will attack Matfield at the line-out; Mike Phillips will attempt to knock Du Preez out of his stride at the base of the scrum and around the fringes. On this basis there is a case for picking Sheridan against the Springboks' undisputed leader.

So much will depend on what the Lions attempt to do at the breakdown. They have problems there, for sure: David Wallace is not the greatest scavenger in the world, Martyn Williams is a half-and-half kind of open-side flanker and Tom Croft is not an on-the-ball player at all. Whoever plays, he won't find himself up against Heinrich Brussow, who made such a spectacular impact for the Free State Cheetahs last weekend. However, he may well have to get his head around Schalk Burger, who if fit, will play a big part in this series.

The Lions need all the help they can get in the tackle area, which is why I'd pick a hit-everything lock like Nathan Hines or Simon Shaw to play alongside O'Connell. When I was working with the Wallabies, we had David Giffin. He didn't carry a lot of ball, but with John Eales – or, latterly Nathan Sharpe – in the side, that didn't matter. David was the cement between the bricks: he cleaned out rucks, made his tackles, he worked himself into the ground. With no cast-iron ballwinner operating in the back row, the Lions must compensate somewhere. It might be hard on a good, athletic lock like Alun-Wyn Jones, but on a tour like this, needs must.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
News
people
News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
Uuganaa Ramsay
arts + entsHow the proud name of a people became an offensive term
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Arts and Entertainment
Morgana Robinson
arts + entsIt is not easy interviewing Morgana Robinson. Here's why...
News
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin