British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has accused South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus of “trying to wind us up” after Erasmus insinuated the tourists are scared to face South Africa “A” again on Saturday in Cape Town.
Erasmus, who is “good friends” with Gatland, has tried, unsuccessfully, to get a second clash against the visitors for his Bok side tomorrow, with the undercooked hosts having played only one Test since lifting the World Cup in November 2019.
A strong South Africa “A” selection beat the Lions 17-13 on Wednesday in Cape Town and Erasmus wants to play them again at the same venue this weekend to help his squad prepare for the three-match Test series that starts on July 24.
The Lions will instead play the Stormers, while South Africa have lined up a fixture against the Bulls. Both games will be in Cape Town.
“I think he was just trying to wind us up by saying we were scared, which he is sometimes capable of doing,” a bristling Gatland told reporters yesterday before going on to accuse Erasmus of gamesmanship for his role as a water carrier in Wednesday’s match.
“Last night he was the water boy and running around the pitch [giving instructions], but if you are the water boy, I think you have to make sure you are carrying water.
“I don’t understand what his role was. You don’t run onto the pitch giving messages if you are a water boy without water.”
Gatland also reiterated that the Lions had gained confidence from the defeat ahead of the Test series.
“We are pretty excited, it was a physical game and we will be pretty pumped for next week. We know what is coming, I think they [South Africa] will have some sore bodies today.
“We worked on some things, our maul defence [was good], I thought we scrummed pretty well. From an attacking perspective we probably weren’t as clinical as we could be, we know there were some opportunities we left out there.
“I thought we looked really strong and fit in the second half.
“The guys were pretty bullish in the change room afterwards thinking we can win this series.
“He [Erasmus] put out pretty much his top side against us, which is good, we have had a good look at them. I don’t see it as our role to prepare them for the Test series.”
Meanwhile, British & Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones will start from the bench against the Stormers after a remarkable return to the tour party following a dislocated shoulder.
15 Stuart Hogg (capt), 14 Josh Adams, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Rory Sutherland. Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18-Zander Fagerson, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit.
Jones had been ruled out of the tour after being injured in the 28-10 victory over Japan in Edinburgh last month, but has proved his fitness and arrived in South Africa on Thursday.
There is also a return from Covid-19 isolation for fullback Stuart Hogg, who captains the side, while rookie flyhalf Marcus Smith has been handed a first start just days after he also arrived in South Africa as cover for Finn Russell.
Centre Robbie Henshaw has overcome a hamstring problem and will play his first game on the tour, while Josh Adams returns after dropping out of the 17-13 defeat by South Africa “A” on Wednesday to view the birth of his first child via Zoom.