Gatland urges officials to crack down on South Africa’s time-wasting in final Test

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Warren Gatland has urged the officials for Saturday’s British & Irish Lions series decider to address the Springboks’ time-wasting tactics as the touring side seek to secure a first series victory in South Africa for 24 years.

Gatland has made six changes to his side and is desperate for his players to keep a high tempo after last Saturday’s second Test was bogged down by endless stoppages. The Lions head coach also highlighted a 63-minute first-half and 14 minutes spent on TMO referrals with a host of decisions checked following Rassie Erasmus’ video rant. World Rugby has announced that Erasmus will face a misconduct charge but was also critical of the Lions – much to Gatland’s frustration.

Related: The Breakdown | Refereeing rows have polluted the Lions narrative – enough is enough

Last Saturday a number of scuffles also broke out, including after Cheslin Kolbe had taken Conor Murray out in the air, further adding to the stop-start nature of the match. Kyle Sinckler was cited for an alleged bite on Franco Mostert but was on Tuesday cleared at a disciplinary hearing and is free to take his place on the bench on Saturday.

Gatland will meet Saturday’s referee Mathieu Raynal, and his assistants Nic Berry and Ben O’Keeffe this week and plans to emphasise South Africa’s attempts to slow the game down. “I think there are two things there,” said Gatland. “One is looking to keep the ball and also talking to officials about making sure that we keep the game flowing. We felt like that at every scrum there was an injury, slowing the game down. I think there was something like 14 minutes of TMO time in the game and we’ve worked pretty hard from a conditioning point of view but it was really, really stop-start and that made it frustrating for us. It would help if players weren’t going down for injuries on a regular basis and stopping.

“We had stud changes, we had TMO decisions, we had the referee stopping the game for cramp. So that will be one of the things I talk to the referees about this week. We need to make sure we can’t have 60-odd minute halves. It was very frustrating for us and particularly for Alun Wyn on the weekend. He was talking to the referee on a number of occasions asking him to speed up. It’s definitely not something to our advantage and we need to work on that and make sure that we keep up that tempo this weekend.”

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager,  Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese,

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Morne Steyn, Damian Willemse. 

Lions: Liam Williams; Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe; Dan Biggar, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan. 

Replacements: Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Adam Beard, Sam Simmonds, Conor Murray, Finn Russell, Elliot Daly.

Accordingly, Gatland has recalled Ali Price to the starting lineup and handed starts to Liam Williams at fullback and Josh Adams – the tour’s top try-scorer with eight – on the wing. Finn Russell and Sam Simmonds also bring a greater attacking threat to the replacements bench. “You want that flow in the game and we’ve seen from other games that when we’ve had that tempo we’ve played some really good rugby,” added Gatland. “We want to keep the tempo of the game up to get the ball in at our scrums and get the ball in quickly at lineouts, to play and to get a flow. And South Africa at the moment don’t want to do that. Everything is so stop-start that it does make it frustrating.”

Meanwhile, Gatland has also addressed World Rugby’s decision to point the finger at the Lions when announcing Erasmus’s misconduct hearing on Monday, criticising the touring side for expressing their anger at the appointment of the South African TMO Marius Jonker.

“The only thing I’m disappointed about in World Rugby’s statement is that they’ve kind of inadvertently dragged us into it,” said Gatland. “We’ve tried to, we think, maintain as much integrity as we can, in terms of we haven’t been commenting on refereeing. We never questioned the TMO. The only question we asked is why hadn’t World Rugby put a contingency plan in place if people couldn’t travel or got sick.

“That’s the only question that we had asked. So I’m really, really disappointed with a part of the statement where they’ve sort of said both sides have been making comments and being critical of the officials.I’d like someone to show me where we have done that. We’ve looked through everything and we can’t see any instances where we’ve been critical of the officials. In fact, I think we’ve praised the officials.”

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