South African TV pundits in agreement on who should start at 10 for the Lions
Former Springboks Victor Matfield, John Smit and Odwa Ndungane recently discussed who should start at fly-half for the British and Irish Lions against South Africa, with all three agreeing that England captain Owen Farrell should wear the No 10 jersey.
With Dan Biggar and Finn Russell also in the squad, competition to start for the Lions is fierce this year, but all three 2009 series winners agreed that Farrell was the man, although Matfield questioned whether he should play at No 10 or No 12.
Speaking on SuperSport, Matfield said: “Owen Farrell just showed again tonight, we spoke about it at half time, he’s quality. It doesn’t matter if he plays 10 or 12. He’s quality. He understands the game. It’s going to be very difficult to not have him in that first XV.
“I think Owen needs to be there, but do you want at 10 or do you want him at 12? I mean at 12 you’ve got even more time to communicate. So I think it’s going to be a difficult choice for them.”
Smit agreed, saying: “He has to start. Whether it’s 10 or 12, he has to start. He didn’t really imprint himself on this game as well. I tell you what, it must be the biggest headache because Farrell is a winner and he’s got to be in their starting line-up, so it’s about who they sacrifice, because 10 is unbelievably competitive. There’s three really good choices there.”
Odwa Ndungane added: “A very good headache [for Warren Gatland to have] and there’s still Dan Biggar that didn’t play today. And I think Finn Russell was was actually very good in the game against the Lions even though you can see they’re giving him time to make that decision and he’s a very smart player and he’s a different player compared to Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell. He likes to take the ball up to the line, but I think it will all depend on what game plan Warren wants to go with.
“For me, I would go with Owen Farrell because I think Farrell can give you both options. He can actually attack the line if he wants to or he can actually give you that kicking game. We saw what he did today, when he’s able to see where the space is and put the ball there, so I think for me if I was the coach of the Lions, I would go with Owen Farrell.”
The former Springboks captain Smit agreed with his winger: “I think I agree because he also has an ability to talk, communicate and arrange a defence quite quickly as well and that was one of the other standout things around this Lions team. Their coming off the line was incredible, they stayed tight. In fact the only time that you know that those silly little kick throughs worked was one one or two of those that went over the middle that put their line speed under pressure and we managed to regain with Werner Kok. But he’s a he’s an incredible organiser and communicator as well.”