June International Tours

Lions series is far from over warns Gatland

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The series against the Springboks is far from over, warned British and Irish Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland on the eve of Saturday’s crunch second Test at Loftus Versfeld .


South Africa won the first Test 26-21 but came under late pressure from a Lions team that finished stronger amid a slew of rash replacements by the home side.


“One of the things that surprised me about South Africa was how little rugby they played,” Gatland said of the Springboks’ performance in the Durban Test last Saturday.


“They went to fourth phase once in the game, and I think the centres got one pass.


“There has always been a lot of criticism about northern hemisphere rugby, about us being quite boring and playing 10-man rugby.


“You wouldn’t often give that criticism to teams like South Africa, but they didn’t play any rugby at all.”


The Lions scrum was punished in the first-half, prop Phil Vickery conceding a hatful of penalties, three of which were kicked successfully to hand the home side a welcome cushion.


“South Africa didn’t have to play a lot of rugby. We gifted them a number of points and we missed three or four real scoring opportunities ourselves,” said Gatland, the New Zealand-born coach of Wales.


“They played winning Test match rugby, but they didn’t play any rugby.


“There is a possibility that they may go out and throw a bit more ball around, but we didn’t put them under enough pressure for them to have to do that last weekend.


“We’ve got to be in the game in that first 20 or 30 minutes. We just can’t afford to go behind by 10 points or more against South Africa.


“We were very pleased with the way we finished the game. We dominated in the last 20 minutes, but it is really important we start well and negate their physical threat against us.


“We have to make sure our discipline is good and we don’t give away any stupid penalties. We have got to scrummage well, our lineout has got to be accurate and we’ve got to be smart in the way we play.”


Lions head coach Ian McGeechan has drafted in prop Adam Jones, hooker Matthew Rees and lock Simon Shaw to bolster the pack, with Vickery and English hooker Lee Mears not even included in the match-day squad.


“There is definitely no threat of us sitting back and playing negatively – we’ve got to go out and get stuck in as well,” said Gatland.


“I would be very surprised if any of the Lions players take a backward step to any physical threat imposed by the South Africans.”


He added: “We take a lot of heart out of the last 20 minutes (in Durban) when we had 80 percent of territory and possession and scored 14 points.


“We felt the South Africans were the team out on their feet, they were the guys with their hands on their knees and struggling with the game.”

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