Warren Gatland has vowed the Lions won’t take a step back in the first test against South Africa after the head coach brought the rucking back for an unrestricted practice session.
Gatland, who has also suggested that a number of the hosts’ players’ might be underrated ‘after suffering from Covid, believes the Lions have already’ damaged the ego ‘of the Springboks after dominating the free-kick battle in South Africa’s 17-13 defeat ‘A’ last week. In the 2009 series, when Gatland was an assistant coach, South Africa’s “niggle” stepped into the shoes of the Lions. This time around, they’re all set to take on the “Bok Bully Boys” when they meet at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“The message is to make sure we don’t take a step back,” Gatland said. “We don’t allow them, like in 2009 there were a lot of guys rushing around and pushing – those kinds of pieces – we approached that as a team and said we weren’t taking any more. . That’s why there was probably this problem in 2009 and it’s part of how they dominated other teams around the world. You just need to keep helping them and make sure you don’t take a step back. “
To prepare his team for this challenge, Gatland hosted a bone-on-bone training session on Tuesday afternoon. Tension was understandably high after the announcement of the starting XV to the squad, resulting in a few instances of ‘stomping’ which Gatland defines as ‘standing on someone’s leg and stomping’. This old-fashioned rucking is exactly what Gatland wanted to see.
“The guy just had to stomp and take his leg out because he was slowing the ball,” Gatland said. “I thought it was brilliant. There were a few pushes and pushes. The guys weren’t backing down. You get that in Test Rugby. There was nothing in terms of throwing punches. You just saw it. guys not being ready to take a step back and that’s exactly what you’d expect because it just shows what it means, not just for players who are just starting out, but for guys who aren’t involved .
The crucial caveat is that the Lions don’t go over the mark. The last series in New Zealand was based on Sonny Bill Williams’ red card in the second test and as much as Gatland wants the Lions to match the aggressiveness of the Springboks, he needs to be exploited.
“You have to be on the limit, but you also have to stay in control,” said Gatland, who will meet the referee team on Thursday. “There’s a lot at stake for both sides and we have to make sure we bring that physicality – but controlled physicality. The last thing we want from a Lions perspective is a test game decided by someone making a really bad decision – coming in with a shoulder, a tackle that’s too high.
As the Lions enter the game in great physical shape, the South African matchday squad has seven players who have tested positive for Covid-19, including captain Siya Kolisi who only ended his ten-day isolation. that Monday. If there are any Springboks struggling for their fitness, Gatland is hoping his team’s quick style will expose them.
“I just know we’re going to try to keep as much rhythm in the game as possible, I feel like our conditioning is good and if they have two or three players who are going to struggle it can be. , “Said Gatland.” They had 46-47 players in the squad, a few with Covid, they had other options but they came back to players who were there, did it and did well played for them at the World Cup It’s understandable, but some of them could very well be under-exploited.
Outside of fitness, there will be few surprises in South Africa, which is set to pick up on the hammer tactics that won them the 2019 World Cup. Match them up ahead, however, and Gatland thinks they are. ‘they will have nowhere to turn. “I guess it’s hard for them to walk away from something that has been incredibly successful for them,” Gatland said. “They will be working harder this week to try to get some dominance in this area and we have to make sure we keep applying that pressure and not allowing them to get that dominance. Then we’ll see what other parts of the game they can go to, because if they don’t get that dominance, they’ll have to play slightly differently.