The British and Irish Lions are in need of reliable leadership if they’re to emerge on the winning side of their tour to South Africa after the hosts levelled the series on Saturday.
It’s a good thing Alun Wyn Jones is no stranger to high-pressure situations, and the Wales legend has encouraged his team-mates to “put it right” in the upcoming series decider.
South Africa clinched a decisive 27-9 victory in the second Test at Cape Town Stadium, with momentum now running firmly in favour of the hosts ahead of Saturday’s third leg.
Speaking ahead of the climactic third instalment in Cape Town, Jones said: “It’s going to be obviously the biggest week of the tour now.
“It’s the last chance to put it right. We’re fortunate we’ve got another week.
“There has been a lot said about a wounded Springbok but I think the Lions have taken a dent and we need to put it right.
“Immediately after the game we got together and said we had to stick together. There was a lot of eye contact.”
The tourists led 9-6 at the break but conceded 21 unanswered points during the second half, when Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am crossed over for the game’s only tries.
It was a far cry from the performance that saw Warren Gatland ’s side win 22-17 in the first Test, and the Lions rarely looked like scoring themselves in the most recent encounter.
Jones—who spent 11 years of his international career playing under Gatland—added he was expecting the coach to make numerous tweaks to the team for their rubber match.
“Everyone is well aware that Warren will make changes – he’s notorious for making changes – and we go again,” Jones said.
“There will probably be opportunities for some and there’s definitely a feeling we can probably put it right.
“It will be interesting to see what Warren does with the team. But definitely it’s going to be a big week.”
Kyle Sinckler may be forced out of contention after he was cited for allegedly biting Franco Mostert, with the tighthead prop at risk of being banned for at least three months.
The second Test was marred by the repeat breaks in play due to ill discipline and off-ball incidents, with each half lasting more than an hour.
Referee Ben O’Keeffe found himself at the centre of the controversy following lengthy consultations with television match official Marius Jonker.
That came after South Africa director Rassie Erasmus appeared in an hour-long video questioning certain decisions from the first Test, deemed by many to have placed more pressure on officials.
But Jones, 35, continued to say any defeat was solely the fault of the Lions: “From the the outside it probably looked like a backlash, but from where I’m sitting here we didn’t help ourselves.
“We were well aware of what they were going to improve on. They probably did to us what we wanted to do to them. They tried to do it last week, they probably just did it better and we saw more of it.”
The Lions skipper made a miraculous return to the squad in less than a month after dislocating his shoulder in the team's opening warm-up fixture.
Jones is one of only five players who has played the full 80 minutes in both Tests thus far. Maro Itoje, Stuart Hogg, Robbie Henshaw and Anthony Watson are each also yet to miss a minute in the series.
But even those star names could face the axe is Gatland decides on wholesale changes ahead of Saturday’s third and final meeting, with a big response needed from the visitors in Cape Town.