Gatland upbeat about Lions' chances despite defeat to SA 'A'

Louis Rees-Zammit of the British & Irish Lions attempts to tackle Cheslin Kolbe of SA 'A' during the Tour match at Cape Town Stadium on July 14, 2021
Louis Rees-Zammit of the British & Irish Lions attempts to tackle Cheslin Kolbe of SA 'A' during the Tour match at Cape Town Stadium on July 14, 2021
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland believes he will get more out of Wednesday’s 17-13 loss to a strong SA ‘A’ in Cape Town than their opponents and says he is "pretty positive" about the performance despite a first defeat on tour.

The home side led 17-3 at halftime but the Lions were on top for much of the second period, though they could not make their dominance at the scrums and hefty possession count with some poor execution in the home side’s 22.

"The players are pretty bullish in the changeroom, they are confident they can deal with whatever they (South Africa) throw at us in the test series," Gatland told reporters.

"There are things we can easily fix in terms of what we gave to them to keep them in the game.

"The players are pretty positive about that performance and know we can still improve a lot. We would have got a lot more out of tonight than South Africa.

"The series is going to be a real arm wrestle and that was as close to a test match as you are going to get."

The home side’s match-day squad featured 18 players who were part of the Springboks’ World Cup winning team in 2019 and Gatland believes they have shown their hand in terms of the way they will play.

"They did a lot of things we expected from them, box-kicking, they were aggressive and direct with their running. But we scrummed outstandingly well and defended their mauls particularly well.

"There are a few things we need to brush up on in terms of our accuracies and we had a couple of tries turned down. But those are things we can fix."

Gatland revealed fullback Liam Williams will have to go through concussion protocols over the next week before he is cleared to play in the first Test on July 24, but welcomed the arrival in South Africa of lock Alun Wyn Jones on Thursday, who has recovered from a dislocated shoulder.

He will sit down with Jones and current tour captain Conor Murray to decide who will lead the team, but says it is no foregone conclusion that the former will start in the test series.

"He has had no rugby in the last three weeks, only training. It will be a conversation about what we do with the team. In the game at the moment, having guys come off the bench (in matches) is important.

"Our bench was pretty good today. There is no guarantees of anyone starting."

- Reuters

 

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