British & Irish Lions

Warren Gatland on Covid scare before handsome Sharks win: 'It was a surreal challenge'

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Duhan van der Merwe. (Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
Duhan van der Merwe. (Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland praised his team's togetherness, character, and grit to overcome the chaotic Covid situation that threatened to scupper their second tour game against the Sharks at Ellis Park on Wednesday.

Gatland's men won 54-7 in a game where they were tested physically among the forwards but were a class apart in the backline, which ran in eight tries to the Sharks' one.

READ | SA-born Duhan vd Merwe scores hat-trick as fearsome Lions backline destroys sloppy

Duhan van der Merwe and Josh Adams were the destruction boys - the pair grabbing a hat-trick each, an incredible feat.

Centre Bundee Aki and winger Louis Rees-Zammit scored the other tries for the visitors while No 6 James Venter finished one of the Sharks' best moves of the night in the second half.

But the game almost didn't happen after a member of the Lions management staff returned a positive Covid test, which forced him and four other close contacts into immediate self-isolation.

Other team members and staff had to retest, causing an anxious wait for results before the game was given the green light to go ahead just two hours before kick-off.

"It was quite a surreal challenge, considering we were in our rooms until 18:00. We didn't get our results back until 17:30 and had to make quite a few changes, but I'm incredibly proud of the performance and players and how they adjusted," said Gatland.

"The staff worked so how today (Wednesday) that I came away thinking, 'I'm incredibly proud of that'. More than the performance was the result. I was proud of the togetherness in this group and how much they wanted to go out there and perform and wear this jersey.

"My message to the players was that 'let's use this as a positive and show that we can deal with whatever is thrown at us - nothing is going to phase us'.

"We were in a situation where we weren't in control of things, so we just had to go with the flow and adjust.

"We were able to adapt and change in a situation of chaos. The players were absolutely outstanding in their approach in how vocal they were in the changing room and how they supported each other. It was tremendous."

There was no doubt about the Lions performance, though, as they flexed their muscles against a Sharks team missing nine regulars to the Springboks.

A few players didn't disgrace themselves, showing some fight, such as scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, loose forward Thembelani Bholi, centre Marius Louw and wing Werner Kok.

However, Van der Merwe and Adams, with Owen Farrell pulling the strings at flyhalf, were too good for the Durbanites.

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