Hooker Ken Owens admits South Africa are in the ascendancy going into Saturday’s series decider but believes the British and Irish Lions have a “blueprint” for glory.
Warren Gatland’s men came off second best last weekend in Cape Town as the Springboks left proceedings tantalisingly poised courtesy of a resounding 27-9 success.
Coach Gatland has reacted to that chastening defeat by making six changes to his starting XV for the forthcoming winner-takes-all clash, including handing Welshman Owens a maiden Test start in a Lions jersey.
The incoming Scarlets front-rower insists belief remains high in the camp and feels a few “easy fixes” could be sufficient to secure a famous victory over the world champions.
“You’d probably say the way South Africa finished the game, the momentum is with them, but we can’t look back at what happened last week,” he said.
“The confidence is still there. We know and trust our processes and what we’re trying to achieve and we’re here for a huge third-Test series decider.
“We’re in a really good place, we know the challenge that’s going to be coming from South Africa, so it all bodes well for a great finale.
“We’ve got the blueprint for the win (from the first Test).
“We’ve just got to take confidence in what we’ve done well on tour. We’ve won a Test match, lost a Test match, so it’s all to play for in the third and a lot of the things are easy fixes.”
Owens came off the bench for the second successive match on Saturday but was powerless to prevent the hosts turning a narrow half-time deficit into an emphatic win.
The majority of Gatland’s alterations reinforce the Lions’ existing game plan of setting out to match the Springboks’ physicality, something Owens described as a “massive challenge” ahead of one of the most significant games of his career.
“My first start in a Test series for the Lions, which I am hugely proud of, and it’s a third-Test decider against the world champions, so it’s right up there as one of the biggest games, but definitely in a Lions shirt,” said the 34-year-old, who was also part of Gatland’s Wales team narrowly beaten by South Africa in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup.
“We know exactly the challenge they bring. They do pride themselves on it. They try to impose themselves physically.
“It is a massive challenge, but we knew that before coming down here. We took a bit of a hit with it last week, probably came second best.
“But I think on this tour, we’ve been very physical ourselves, so it’s going to be a phenomenal Test match.”
Saturday’s climax brings down the curtain on one of the most toxic Lions tours in history.
New Zealander Gatland has verbally locked horns with Boks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus over the past weeks but, according to Owens, has remained a composed, reassuring presence within the training camp.
“He’s pretty calm. He just knows how to get the best out of the players,” said Owens.
“He steps in when he needs to and prompts boys when he needs to.
“He’s been at his best with that this week. It’s just that huge experience he’s got is right around the place at the moment.”