June International Tours

We failed to keep lid on ‘Beast’: Rowntree



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The British and Irish Lions failed to shut down prop Tendai Mtawarira in the 26-21 first Test loss to South Africa, Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree admitted Sunday.

The Lions, who were 19-7 down at half-time after a series of calamitous scrums when Mtwarira, nicknamed the “Beast”, and hooker Bismarck du Plessis took accurate aim at Phil Vickery, also failed to defend the Springbok driving maul correctly, Rowntree said.

“It wasn’t that bad, was it?” Rowntree said of the Springbok scrum many pundits had claimed might be undercooked given their lack of game time. “Fortunately, the changes we made (in the second-half) sorted it out.

“Of those eight first-half scrums, three were penalised that put us nine points down. That and a lack of defence against their driving play gave us a mountain to climb.”

The Bok scrummaging had left the Lions looking “vulnerable”, said Rowntree, a former Leicester, England and Lions loosehead prop.

“But it’s not about hanging individuals out to dry,” he said, adding that changes would certainly be made to forward personnel in the second Test in Pretoria on Saturday.

“I was delighted with the impact Mathew Rees and Adam Jones had when they came on.

“By his own admission, he (Phil Vickery) struggled,” Rowntree said.

“But it’s not just about him but also those guys immediately next to him and behind him.

“We failed to keep the lid on the ‘Beast’ at engagement time. We didn’t dominate the engagement and they were able to get under us.

“It was legitimate and we’ll take it on the chin.

“We’re not going to be slaughtering guys this week. We’ll have an honesty session to see how it happened and can’t happen again.” Rowntree added that the squad would be “going into next week positive and confident”.

“We’ve got plenty to put right but the beauty is that we get another shot next week. We’ll take the positives and try and fix the negatives.

“We’ve got to back ourselves at altitude. There’s enough to build on from yesterday.

“It’s a Lions tour and we’ve got everything to go for.”

The South African press meanwhile rounded on Springbok coach Peter de Villiers for making unnecessary substitutions at a time when the home side were in the ascendency, 26-7 up and apparently managing a great first Test win.

“Coach’s blunders nearly throw it away,” headlined the Sunday Independent newspaper. “Just when the Springboks look unstoppable, De Villiers replaces his top men and the team falls apart.

“Only Peter de Villiers and his assistants will know why they pulled the backbone of their team in John Smit, Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha and Jean de Villiers.

“Stark raving madness… The South African fans would have been quite within their rights to erect medieval stocks and demand the Springbok coaching staff be surrendered for public punishment” had they lost.

The Sunday Tribune added: “The substitutions wrecked South Africa’s rhythm and their opponents found a launch pad to play their best rugby of the match, giving a ridiculously one-sided slant to the final quarter.”

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