June International Tours

Lions wil not be scared of Springboks



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British and Irish Lions Mike Phillips and Jamie Heaslip have sent out a warning to the Springboks by saying, “We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

The Lions touring party arrived in Cape Town ahead of their clash against Western Province which will be the last major match where players can push for Test places.

The Lions play the Southern Kings on Tuesday but the 2009 Lions will be more familiar with each other than the Kings as it will be their first ever outing.

“South Africa did not respect us too much before we got here but they will now,” scrum-half Phillips told The Mirror.

Heaslip, the Lions’ outstanding No.8, added: “They keep writing us off and we keep coming back. Let them talk it all up and say what they want to say.

“That’s four out of four now. We’ll keep that momentum going and keep winning in that red jersey.”

“We are getting better and better as we learn more about each other. We are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Forwards coach Warren Gatland was also confident and said that as yet, the Lions have barely opened up their box of tricks and have been holding back another “25-30 per cent” for the Test series.

“We have kept things very simple,” he said. “We’ve purposely done that.”

“You can’t show your hand at this stage.”

“It means you are a bit predictable and it puts you under a little more pressure but you have to keep some things up your sleeve.

“There’s a lot of line-outs we haven’t used, a few back moves as well. We believe we have a bit of artillery that can put them under pressure.”

There was initial concern for centre Jamie Roberts who took a knock on his shoulder in Durban but he has now come through medical tests.

In the match in Durban the Lions scored four tries in the second half and 32 unanswered points which has convinced them that they are firmly on track.

Gatland said: “We are getting some confidence and continuity ahead of the first Test.

“We are like a very happy club side.

“But we know that while it’s great winning these provincial games the tour is all about the Test series and we have got to be prepared to go the full 80 minutes against South Africa.

“We have got to be able to compete and take them through phases. Everyone will have to empty the tank.

“The players are doing that at the moment and we can’t ask any more of them.”

Gatland also said that he felt the Springboks that they are likely to be a little ‘ring rusty’ having not played together this year.

“That’s what we are counting on, that maybe they will be a bit underdone,” he said.

“That is traditionally what happens on tours like this.

“Some of their players haven’t played for four or five weeks. Even if you have been in the gym and training pretty hard you still need games under your belt.”

But Springbok captain John Smit somewhat predictably responded by saying that the vast experience in his team would compensate for any lack of match practice.

“I don’t think we are short of rugby,” he said defiantly.

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