Warren Gatland says his Lions team firmly believe they can win the next round of tests despite losing 17-13 to a strong A team from South Africa. Gatland said his players were particularly encouraged by their second-half recovery and were further strengthened by the news that their once-fit captain, Alun Wyn Jones, is flying to join the tour.
With only one provincial game remaining before Saturday’s first test, Gatland felt the intensity of the competition was perfect preparation for what lies ahead. “It will be good for us,” Gatland predicted. “It just shows that the test matches are going to be a real showdown. It was as close to a test match as you’re going to get.
“The players are rather optimistic in the locker room. They’re pretty confident that they can handle whatever they throw at us. It is important that you keep some things back and we did it. I think it’s going to be an incredibly exciting series of Tests and one that we can approach with a lot of confidence.
Gatland, who felt that Faf de Klerk could have received a red card rather than being sentenced for a reckless challenge with his head held high, also said the Wyn Jones accessory was not a fitness issue after he left with a painful shoulder. Liam Williams will miss Saturday’s game against the Stormers following a blow to the head, but Scotland’s Stuart Hogg, now out of Covid isolation, is expected to replace him at the back.
South African rugby director Rassie Erasmus is still hoping to persuade the Lions to play SA ‘A’ again on Saturday, but Gatland said it would be unfair for the Stormers to switch games now. “I would hate to see the game against the Stormers lost from our perspective. I think we potentially got more out of tonight than South Africa so I’m pretty comfortable doing that Stormers game and then being able to work over the next 10 days to prepare for that game and the first test. .