British Lions ’have had a bit of bone-on-bone’ to prepare for physical Springboks
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DURBAN – British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has reminded his players that six Lions were hospitalised after the second Test against the Boks in 2009 and that there can be no repeat of that physical intimidation in Saturday’s first Test.
The Boks won that savage encounter 12 years ago — and the series — and Gatland, who was an assistant coach on that tour, has challenged the Lions to stand their ground this time.
Gatland’s call to arms stirs memories of the infamous 1974 Lions rallying cry of “99”, which was sounded at the first sign of South African mischief and signalled for all 15 Lions on the field to immediately get stuck into their closest opponent.
In 2021, of course, you can’t take the law into your own hands in that fashion and the fightback Gatland is advocating has to be a disciplined one.
“You have to take it to the edge, but you also have to keep your control. There is a lot at stake for both sides and we have to make sure we bring that physicality, but a controlled physicality. The message is to make sure we don’t take a backward step. In 2009 there were a lot of (Springbok) guys running in, pushing and shoving – we have addressed that as a squad and agreed that we wouldn’t take any more of it,” Gatland said.
“That is why there was probably that niggle in 2009 and it is part of the way that they (the Boks) have dominated other teams in the world. You have got to just keep coming at them and make sure you don’t take a backward step.”
Gatland said that the gathering red mist in the Lions camp ahead of the eagerly-awaited first Test has been reflected in brutal training sessions.
“Some of the sessions have had real physicality and have probably been tougher than some of the games we’ve played,” said Gatland. “We had a bit of bone-on-bone yesterday. It was a pretty tough day with a little bit of niggle which you’d expect (after the team had been announced). The pleasing thing was that the guys who missed out (on selection) just threw everything at it.
“Guys were not backing down. Those who were disappointed wanted to show it and that sometimes flares up into a bit of niggle.”