British & Irish Lions

Lions coach Gatland: We have dented Boks' ego

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British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Looking ahead to Saturday's first Test at Cape Town Stadium, British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland believes they have already "dented" the Springboks' ego somewhat.

This is despite Gatland's charges last week losing 17-13 to a South Africa 'A' side stacked with World Cup-winning Springboks.

After naming his team on Wednesday, Gatland said the Lions' physical effort in that game had put a dent in the Boks' esteem.

"In that A game we were very happy with the way our lineout went, our maul defence and our scrums. In a couple of scrums we dominated them. Whether they will come with a few different variations, I don’t think so; I think they will come with a harder approach," Gatland told reporters.

"That is one aspect we dented their ego in terms of they haven't had that dominance that they would have liked. I have been incredibly impressed with the way we have defended on this tour, and the way we have improved. We haven't conceded a lineout maul try, or a pick-and- go try in this tour.

"That is one aspect we have worked really, really hard on and if we can stop them from dominating in those areas, they are going to have to go to something else in their game."

Gatland, who was an assistant coach when the Lions lost the series 2-1 to South Africa in 2009, added that it would be key for them to allow the Boks to get under their skin.

"The message is making sure we don’t take a backwards step," Gatland said.

"We don't allow them, like in 2009 there were a lot of guys running in and pushing and shoving - those sorts of bits and pieces - we addressed that as a squad and said that we wouldn’t take any more of it. That is why there was probably that niggle in 2009 and it is part of the way that they have dominated other teams in the world. You have got to just keep coming at them and make sure you don’t take a backwards step.

"We don't think they will play a huge amount of rugby, we think they will play territory and we need to be strong in those areas and be prepared to stay in that arm wrestle and then wait for the opportunities that come from that and be able to capitalise on that."

Saturday's Test kicks off at 18:00.

READ | Lions coach Gatland pokes fun at Rassie's 'water boy' role


South Africa

15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

British and Irish Lions

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Liam Williams (Wales)

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