"I got told to shut up once" - Bundee Aki gets chance to do his talking on the field 4 months ago

"I got told to shut up once" - Bundee Aki gets chance to do his talking on the field

"I am vocal on the field and I'm the same off the field."

As the First Test against South Africa approached, Bundee Aki would have been hoping that he had done enough to earn a starting spot in the British & Irish Lions midfield.

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Instead, the Lions coaches went with Elliot Daly. They would win that game but Daly did not do enough to hold the jersey down. With a chance to clinch the Test Series, after going 1-0 up, the coaches then went for Chris Harris.

Aki was gutted to miss out but sucked it up and got into match-day 23 preparation mode. Whatever the guys wanted, he was there. On the day of the first two Tests, he was the loudest cheerleader in the stands, even if it did rile up the odd South African.

"I think I got told to shut up once, which is fair!

"When you're supporting, you're supporting your team-mate and the other team is supporting their team as well. It's nothing bad about it, but when you're not playing you try to support your team-mates as much as you can.

"Some players don't do it the same way I do but I am vocal on the field and I'm the same off the field. You want to see your team doing well."

As the Second Test played out, Harris was solid in defence but barely got a decent shot to prove what he could do in attack. When your starting No.10 [Dan Biggar] passes the ball only three times in a match, those at outside centre or in the back three will always find it hard to get into the attack.

The scarcity of touches and involvement for Harris and the back three, allied with a poor performance with high balls [11 kicks from 22 were spilled], Warren Gatland was always going to make changes. The only survivors from the Second Test's starting backline are Biggar, Henshaw and Duhan van der Merwe.

And so, with the Test Series tied at 1-1, Aki gets the chance to do his talking on the field.

Bundee Aki vs. Damian De Allende

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Gatland has spoken about how influential Springboks' centre Damian De Allende has been in the first two games, and the 'A' encounter early in the tour. Aki's brief - in large part - will be to negate that De Allende influence and punch some holes of his own.

Leinster Damian de Allende and Jonathan Sexton exchanges pleasantries. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

"Everyone knows Damian de Allende, he’s a world-class player and a world champion," says Bundee Aki.

"He's unbelievable. I was lucky to be able to play against him against Munster and in the first [Ireland] Test when I had my debut [in 2017].

"He's one of those players and people who have been there, done it, and they know what they’re doing. You try to relish and enjoy that time and obviously you try to do the best you can to help out the team.

"I can't speak highly enough of Damian de Allende, he's a good bloke, as well, off the pitch. What you see on the pitch, how angry he gets and how strong he is, he’s such a nice bloke off the pitch. You could ask anyone in that Munster team, Conor Murray speaks highly of him and he’s got that off the pitch."

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There will be fascinating battles all across the Cape Town Stadium pitch, on Saturday, as the Test Series gets decided. Aki versus De Allende will be right up there.

You can be sure there will be some talk out there, too.

LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY'S LIONS SERIES: EPISODE 9

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