Gregor Townsend insists the British and Irish Lions’ attack must deliver on its potential by finishing the tries needed to topple South Africa in Saturday’s series decider.
The Lions were prolific in swatting aside weakened provincial opposition, crossing 34 times in four games, but they have touched down just once in the opening two Tests and that was through a lineout maul.
South Africa possess the most ferocious defence in the game and have been near-impregnable at Cape Town Stadium, but Townsend is convinced the tourists have the firepower to ignite when the stakes are at their highest.
“We have the ability to score tries. We have the ability to put South Africa under pressure which can open up opportunities later in the game or can lead to three points, six points,” the Lions attack coach said.
“We have got to create more, that’s for sure. If you create opportunities, whether that comes through errors in the defence that can get you line breaks that lead to tries, that gives you a better chance to win the game.
“I believe that against a quality opposition you’ve got to get a 20-point or more scoreline, to have more control of the outcome.
“We have to do that through all aspects, whether it’s the set-piece or our defence getting us penalties and the ball back, but in particular our attack by creating and finishing off opportunities.
“We know we won’t get a huge amount of opportunities in this Test so to do all you can to get seven points would make a massive difference.”
The officials, led by referee Mathieu Raynal, have an important role to play in enabling the Lions to engineer the tries they seek.
In a humdrum second Test, dominated by kicking and close quarter forward exchanges, each half lasted over an hour due to repeated stoppages while on-field decisions were fastidiously checked with the TMO.
This was a result of the hour-long video released by Rassie Erasmus, the Springboks’ director of rugby, in which the performance of the officials from the first Test was picked apart.
Warren Gatland has also noted the injury breaks, cramp interludes and stud changes that were used by South Africa to slow the game down to a speed that suited their big forwards.
In response, the Lions urged Raynal during their meeting with the referee to prevent any tactical interruptions being taken.
“We know that we have to control the game more by moving South Africa around, draining them of energy whenever we can. That will be an area we focus on,” Townsend said.
“We have made the point that we don’t want unnecessary stoppages. You keep the tempo and the flow of the game through your own accuracy and decision-making.
“When the game stops for a scrum or lineout, you want it restarted as quickly as possible. Everybody does who is watching it at home, so I’d like to think that it will be a shorter game this weekend than last weekend.”
South Africa enter a clash that will determine whether the 2021 tour is a success or failure as marginal favourites, but Townsend insists the Lions have another gear in them.
“South Africa have got better throughout the three games that they’ve played, if you include the A game, so I think they’ll get better again,” the Scotland boss said.
“But it starts again on Saturday. Each match of rugby, each Test match tells its own story.
“There’s certainly more to come from us. If we were to look at the first half last week and the second half of the first Test, that would be a very good performance. But I feel there’s more in us than those halves of rugby.”