Le Cap (AFP)
Britain and Ireland Lions coach Warren Gatland said his players were “quite optimistic” despite the 17-13 loss to South Africa A at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday.
“I thought we enjoyed tonight more than South Africa,” said Gatland. “The players were pretty optimistic in the locker room. “
But, he said he expected the three-game test series, which begins on July 24, to be “a real showdown.”
Gatland said he was proud of how his team came back from 17-3 at halftime.
“We finished the strongest team and they faded a bit,” said the New Zealand-born coach.
He also believed that the result could easily have gone the way of the Lions.
“We crossed their line a few times and had two tries denied and we had a loaded kick that got them to score a try. There were also a couple of decisions that were not in our favor. “
One of those decisions was a yellow card to South African scrum-half Faf de Klerk shortly before half-time, which Gatland said was “definitely” head contact and could have resulted in a red card. .
Gatland said he was pleased with the way the Lions withstood a powerful South African pack in the scrum, but acknowledged they need to work to improve their breakdown game.
He also said the Lions did not reveal all of their secrets during a deadly encounter.
“There are games that we have worked on and we will continue to work on them until the test matches. It is important to keep some things back. “
Gatland said the question of the tour captain’s post will be discussed when the initially appointed captain, Alun Wyn Jones, arrives in Cape Town on Thursday.
Scrum-half Conor Murray, who led the Lions on Wednesday, was put in charge of the tour when lockout Wyn Jones was ruled out due to a shoulder injury he has since recovered from.
“We’re going to sit down with him and Conor and decide,” he said.
Murray suggested he would be happy to hand over the baton.
“I want to win the Test series and Alun has proven that he is a great leader,” he said.
Murray said he was happy with the way the Lions responded.
“We discussed a few points at half-time and you saw how things went in the second half. I would have loved to win, but I think we can be proud of our efforts. “
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