Warren Gatland insists tour defeat ‘will be good’ for his British & Irish Lions
Warren Gatland says his Lions squad firmly believe they can win the forthcoming Test series despite losing 17-13 to a strong South Africa A team. Gatland said his players were particularly encouraged by their second-half revival and have been further boosted by the news their fit-again captain Alun Wyn Jones is flying out to join the tour.
With just one remaining provincial fixture left prior to Saturday week’s first Test, Gatland felt the intensity of the contest was perfect preparation for what lies ahead. “It will be good for us,” predicted Gatland. “It just goes to show the Test matches are going to be a real arm wrestle. That was as close to a Test match as you are going to get.
“The players are pretty bullish in the changing rooms. They feel pretty confident they can handle whatever they throw at us. It is important that you keep a few things back and we’ve been doing that. I think it’s going to be an incredibly exciting Test series and one we can go into with a lot of confidence.”
Gatland, who felt Faf de Klerk could have been red carded rather than sin-binned for a reckless head-high challenge, also said that prop Wyn Jones is not a fitness worry after departing with a sore shoulder. Liam Williams will miss this Saturday’s game against the Stormers following a head knock but Scotland’s Stuart Hogg, now out of Covid isolation, is set to replace him at full-back.
South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is still hoping to persuade the Lions to play SA ‘A’ again on Saturday but Gatland said it would be unfair on the Stormers to switch the fixture now. “I’d hate to see the game against the Stormers lost from our perspective. I think we potentially got more from tonight than South Africa so I’m pretty comfortable with fulfilling that Stormers fixture and then being able to work over the next 10 days preparing for that match and the first Test.”