Lions playing for pride in final Test

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JOHANNESBURG, July 3 – South Africa play the British and Irish Lions in the third and final Test here Saturday with the series already sewn up and seeking a first-ever whitewash in 118 years of fixtures between the two sides.SIMON_SHAWThe Springboks won the first Test in Durban 26-21 and the second in Pretoria 28-25 thanks to a Morne Steyn penalty kick on the stroke of full-time, securing an unassailable 2-0 series lead and avenging the 2-1 series loss to the Lions in 1997.

That leaves Bok coach Peter de Villiers with the luxury of making wholesale changes to his starting line-up for the Ellis Park clash ahead of the Tri-Nations tournament against Australia and New Zealand.

The Lions, however, are left playing for their pride having pushed the home side close in both games.

De Villiers made 10 changes from the side that produced a storming fightback from 19-8 down in Pretoria but insisted it was not a weakened team.

Morne Steyn, the last-gasp hero in Pretoria and top scorer in the Super 14 with the Blue Bulls, makes his first start for the Springboks at flyhalf, as does Chiliboy Ralepelle at hooker.

Exciting Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner will win his first cap, while lock Johann Muller and flanker Heinrich Brussow replace Bakkies Botha and Schalk Burger, who both picked up bans in the brutal second Test for a dangerous charge and eye-gouging respectively.

Ryan Kankowski gets a run at No 8, Jongi Nokwe and Odwa Ndungane start on the wings and there is a new centre pairing in Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie. Bismarck du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn all drop to the bench.

"We believe they are as good as the other guys and that they can go out and do an outstanding job for the Springboks," De Villiers said of his new personnel.

"This is a very strong side. At the end of the Super 14 I wanted to have 28 players who could play for the Springboks at any time and I think we’ve achieved that goal. I’m very happy with this selection."

In more than one hundred years of fixtures against the Lions, the Springboks have won three series – in 1903, 1962 and 1968 – but never having won all the Tests.

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan’s plans to avoid that have been severely disrupted by a raft of injuries, forcing him into making six changes to the starting team focused on snagging one redeeming Test victory.

English duo Phil Vickery and Andrew Sheridan come into the front row in place of Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins, who were both injured in the Pretoria game.

Martyn Williams and Joe Worsley start their first Lions Test in the back row, with David Wallace and Tom Croft dropping to the bench.

Shane Williams and Ugo Monye line up on the wings, Luke Fitzgerald dropping out of the match-day 22 and Tommy Bowe moving to outside centre to partner Riki Flutey, with regular midfield pairing Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts injured.

"This is a new Test match in many respects because the players out there will want to respond very positively and if we play well enough to win it will be a very sweet victory," said McGeechan.

"We gave the players a break this week but we are back to it now and we are keen to finish off with a win.

"We could be sitting here with two wins under our belt. We had two fine games of rugby and I hope it will be the same again.

"As a squad, they have met many challenges on the tour, including playing two matches per week, the inevitable injuries and two narrow Test losses.

"Despite this, they have remained a tight, focused squad," McGeechan said.

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