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Fighting spirit boosts Lions as they fend off Shark attack

Sharks 31 British & Irish Lions 71

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Touchdown: British & Irish Lions’ Jamie George gets over for a try. Credit: Steve Haag/PA

Touchdown: British & Irish Lions’ Jamie George gets over for a try. Credit: Steve Haag/PA

PA

Touchdown: British & Irish Lions’ Jamie George gets over for a try. Credit: Steve Haag/PA

Just when it looked as if the Lions had somehow found themselves in a contest... 

Same opposition, different personnel and venue, and for a while seemingly a very different game but when all was said and done we were presented with another rout.

Initially the Sharks, who deserve credit for going again on a four-day turnaround after the Bulls were forced to step aside because of Covid issues, looked a different side than the one so easily cut through in the early going last Wednesday.

Indeed, their notable uptick in intensity carried them all the way to a 26-26 tie early in the second-half. It was then, though, that their scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse needlessly drove his forearm into the head of Liam Williams after forcing the Welsh full-back into touch.

After a TMO review, Wayne Barnes flashed the red card and what was shaping up to be the Lions first real test on South African soil would balloon to 40-point margin of victory before all was said and done.

“It was tougher, we caused a few of our own problems with some of the turnovers and a couple of intercepts, poor passes that allowed us in the game and put us under pressure,” said Lions coach Warren Gatland of his side’s scruffy start.

“That’s what’s going to come in the Test matches in terms of the South African team who will look to come pretty hard, put us under pressure and see if they can catch us behind the gainline with some loose stuff, look to pressurise us into making mistakes.

“Look, we just need to make sure that we are a bit more accurate, tidier and we did that a lot better in the second half. The players were well aware they’d forced a few passes, thrown a couple of bad ones which allowed them the opportunity to score.”

Indeed, despite the Sharks early questions, this is a tour still more challenging off the field than on it.

The Lions arrived in Cape Town yesterday still unsure who they will play on Wednesday with the scheduled game against Springboks ‘A’ looking likely to be switched with Saturday’s Stormers clash due to the ongoing Covid situation in the World champions’ camp.

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi is among a fresh group of players to test positive for coronavirus. Kolisi, Dan Du Preez, Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni and Makazole Mapimpi are the latest cases to be confirmed alongside three members of team management. It lifts the number of staff and players to have been infected with Covid to in excess of 20.

After their own Covid scare last week, Gatland also revealed that they have requested stricter regulations around hotel staff.

“The big challenge was that we arrived to the (last) hotel and 12 of the staff members had tested positive and then a couple of days after that, another five and then a couple of days after that another two and then another one,” he said.

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“That’s been a bit of a challenge for us. That’s why we’ve requested for Cape Town for the staff who stay on site to come in a bit earlier and be tested regularly. The risk isn’t with us but any engagement with anyone else. We’re trying to keep that as tight as we possibly can but we can’t control all those other aspects.

“We’re doing our best to ensure all the hotel staff are tested regularly and on site so they’re not going home to their families – they’re staying in our bubble, even though we’re keeping a distance and not interacting with the hotel staff.”

SHARKS: A Volmink; M Potgieter, W Kok, M Koster, T Abrahams; L Cronje, J Hendrikse; N Mchunu, K van Vuuren, W Herbst; L Roets, R Hugo; D Richardson, M Gumede, P Buthelezi (capt).

Replacements: J Labuschagne (for Roux Roets,49); C Wright (for Gumede, 49); MJ Majola (for Mchunu, 51); L Adriaanse (for Herbst, 53); T Bholi (for Buthelezi,59); Boeta Chamberlain (for Cronje,59); D Jooste (for Van Vuren, 59), R Jonker (for Koster, 65).

Not used: K Mchunu, J Ward, C Bosch.

B&I LIONS: L Williams; A Watson, E Daly, C Harris, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, G Davies; R Sutherland, J George (capt), T Furlong; C Lawes, J Hill; T Beirne, H Watson, J Conan.

Replacements: C Murray (for Davies, 46 mins); K Owens (for George,55); W Jones (for Sutherland,55); K Sinckler (for Furlong, 55), S Simmonds (for Conan, 55); T Curry (for Watson, 59), A Beard (for Lawes, 65), B Aki (for Harris, 67).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).


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