Matt Dawson has warned the Lions players they will face a side possessed like no other in Saturday’s second Test against the Springboks.
The former England scrum-half was part of the last Lions team to win a series in South Africa, in 1997, scoring a memorable try in the Cape Town opener and then another in Johannesburg.
So he knows what it takes to get the job done and he believes the Class of 2021 can follow suit this weekend, winning by six or seven points.
But he is expecting a mighty challenge from a ‘Boks team wounded by last Saturday’s 22-17 first Test defeat at the Cape Town Stadium.
“My advice to the Lions would be, you are going to play against a possessed side like you’ve never come across before,” he says in his blog for William Hill.
“You’re going to have to take yourself physically and mentally to a new place, you’re going to have to challenge yourself.
“That’s the tough part, that’s going to separate you from the opposition.
“Can you mentally take yourself to a place where you have crystal-clear thinking in the cauldron and pressure cooker of elite Test match rugby?
“As that’s where it will be won. It’s going to be won in the top two inches, not in the belly or the set-piece. It’s going to be the head that wins it at the weekend.”
He added: “A first series win in South Africa in 24 years would be huge, these opportunities just don’t come along very often.
“A lot of these players will have experienced the drawn New Zealand Lions tour in 2017 and being a whisker away from picking up a series win there. You can’t help but think they will have told themselves they will never miss an opportunity like that again.
“You can go down in history, you can talk about it forever more, you can be part of a very elite group of Lions players that have won a Test series.
“24 years…and it was another 23 years since the last South Africa series win before we won in 1997.
“They really do not come around very often and if you’re looking back on your career, in the years to come, these are the moments that separate you from other players.
“As a player you are always very conscious of the tradition and history of the Lions, 99.9% of rugby players will never have that opportunity to be a part of rugby history and folklore like that.
“You’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to enjoy it, but make sure it doesn’t cloud your thinking or judgement, or your perspective of the game. It is tricky sometimes not to get whisked away by the romance of the Lions and what is eventually ahead of you.”
Dawson concluded: “I would want the Lions to win on Saturday rather than take it to a third Test as I think the South Africans are going to get better week to week.
“But I think the Lions will have enough in their locker.
“I know South Africa have made changes, but I think the Lions will do it.
“They’ll learn from their mistakes in the first half last week, they’ll keep their discipline.
“They’ll be aware of the South Africa counter-attack and, more importantly, the Lions have got that second half from last week to show them that’s the type of rugby that’s going to be effective at this level.
“They’ve picked the right squad and I do think the Lions can win by six or seven points on Saturday.”