A powerful phantom Springboks team containing 11 World Cup winners and 522 caps started ominously as they led 17-3 at halftime, but the Lions fought back with a try from Wyn Jones and Owen Farrell’s boot.
Although it appears South Africa received a psychological blow ahead of the series which begins on Saturday week, Gatland said his tourists were feeling “optimistic” after a game billed as the fourth unofficial test.
“We needed that hard blow. I’m happy with how strong we looked in the second half, ”said Gatland.
“We will gain a lot from it and it will be good for us with 10 days in this first test. South Africa started off really well and were physical at the breakdown but we came to terms with that and I’m proud the boys came back from 17-3 down.
“It shows that the test matches are going to be a real showdown and it’s as close to a test match as you’re going to get it.
“Considering they were pretty much at full power and we have a good idea of what it was, the players are pretty optimistic in the locker room. They’re pretty confident that we can handle whatever they throw at us in the future.
“The players are pretty positive about this performance and know that we can still improve a lot.
“I think it’s going to be an incredibly exciting test series and one that we can approach with a lot of confidence. “
Gatland has revealed that Wyn Jones only suffered one sting injury and is expected to recover quickly, but Liam Williams must follow return-to-play protocols for a concussion after failing a HIA.
South African rugby director Rassie Erasmus, replacing self-isolating head coach Jacques Nienaber, said it was understandable that his players were getting tired in the second half given their inability to train because of a Covid epidemic.
“We knew we were going to run out of steam. The guys played with a lot of heart. We can be proud of it, ”said Erasmus.
Although Gatland firmly rejected Erasmus’s offer of another game against his A-side on Saturday, the Springboks boss believes it is still possible.
“We’re going to play against the Bulls and if there are any outbreaks in the Bulls or Stormers teams, positive cases, then the best thing will be for us to play the Lions again on Saturday. It would be the safest, ”he said. mentionned.
“But if everything goes according to plan, we’ll play the Bulls and they’ll play the Stormers. “
Erasmus acted as the water boy for his team, prompting Gatland to joke: “It was kinda interesting! You won’t see me do this. Different shots for different people I guess.
“A bit strange, the director of South African rugby is also a water boy. “ Pennsylvania