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Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki celebrate the Lions' win.
Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki celebrate the Lions' win.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'Next week is going to be even bigger and tougher' - Gatland

The Lions can wrap up a series success in the second Test against the Boks.
Jul 24th 2021, 8:24 PM 10,881 20

LIONS HEAD COACH Warren Gatland says he is expecting a strong backlash from the Springboks after his team went 1-0 up in their three-match Test series.

The Lions produced an accurate, muscular second-half performance against the South Africans in the first Test in Cape Town to overturn a half-time deficit and win 22-17.

Gatland was delighted with how his players wrestled control of the contest back in their favour after trailing 12-3 at the break.

“The message at half-time was that we were still in the arm wrestle,” said Gatland post-match. “If Dan Biggar had kicked that penalty [soon before half-time], 12-6. We were down 12-3 and had given away a few soft penalties to allow them opportunities.

“It was, ‘Keep our patience, stay in the arm wrestle, we will get chances, don’t try and force things’. As that second half went on, we got stronger and stronger and got ourselves back into the game.

“It was a really tough, tight Test match and the bounce of a ball, it could have gone any way. Thankfully, we’ve come from behind and finished really strongly. I thought we were excellent in the last few minutes.”

The Boks were impressive in the opening half but faded after the interval in what may have been an indication of their lack of Test rugby since the 2019 World Cup, as well as their recent lack of time on the training pitch due to a Covid-19 outbreak in their camp.

There were a handful of controversial refereeing calls in Cape Town too, with Hamish Watson lucky to avoid a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Willie le Roux, whose earlier try had been chalked off following a TMO review.

Gatland’s reply when asked if the Lions had come out on the better side of the big refereeing calls was simply, “No.”

warren-gatland Gatland's Lions edged to a win. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

He now expects a huge response from the Springboks next weekend as they look to take the Test series into the final game on 7 August.

The Lions, meanwhile, will be looking to wrap up a series success next Saturday.

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“They’ll be hurt from this because they’re a very proud nation and world champions,” said Gatland. “Next week is going to be even bigger and tougher, I would expect.

“From our point of view, you know that no matter what happens you’re going to the last weekend of the series. That keeps everyone engaged and really interested.

“This is a really tight group of players and our non-23 did a really brilliant job this week in helping the Test 23 prepare. The victory was as much about the whole squad as the guys who took to the field.

“We feel like there is a lot more in us. From a conditioning side, we look like we’re just getting stronger and stronger. That shows how hard we’ve worked over the last six weeks or so.”

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