British & Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland believes the biggest challenge facing the Springboks this weekend lies in their heads.
Gatland said this week that it will be difficult for Jacques Nienaber’s men to pick themselves up emotionally after their massive efforts last week which saw them put the Lions to the sword and thus level the series, 1-1.
Gatland may be on to something as he has seen this unfold more than once during his career; the 2013 Lions tour to Australia saw the Wallabies level the series in the second Test but were unable to dig as deep in the third after the emotional come-down of their victory a week prior, thereby losing the series. Gatland also famously suggested that England would not be up for the 2019 World Cup final after the latter’s magnificent victory over the mighty All Blacks in the semis. As it transpired, Gatland was correct and the English were dismantled by the Boks.
"It's probably pretty similar," said Gatland while comparing the current situation with the 2013 tour scenario. "We made changes in 2013, we needed to make some changes after that second Test.
"South Africa are missing a couple of key players in terms of De Klerk and Du Toit and the effect that is going to have on them and the way they approach the game.
"The biggest part of 2013 was probably how emotionally charged Australia were for that second Test and then being able to bring that again.
"That’s always the biggest challenge in big matches, semi-finals and finals, when you get up for a big game, you win it and then you have to try to match that emotion for the following week.
"We need to be focused. That’ll be the message to the players this week.
"I suspect the last thing we need is pushing and grabbing and guys running into people’s backs. I can understand reaction when players see something happen to their own player and a push can spill over.
"But we’ve got to make sure that we tidy that up. The length of the game was something - we need to make sure we don’t have so many stoppages.
"We need the team to keep the flow of the game going. There have been a number of things off the field that raised the eyebrows, but everyone’s got to try and really focus on ourselves this week."