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Gatland reacts to de Klerk getting away with contact to the head

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)

Lions boss Warren Gatland has suggested Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk was fortunate not to be red-carded in South Africa A’s 17-13 win in Cape Town for the late first-half contact he made to the head of Josh Navidi with his shoulder. Ahead 17-3 with the game approaching the interval, South Africa A absorbed some tremendous pressure without conceding a score despite losing de Klerk and back-rower Marco van Staden to the sin bin for yellow cards. 


Gatland, though, suggested in the post-match fallout that de Klerk had made contact with his shoulder to the head of Navidi who had latched onto Wyn Jones, the ball-carrying prop. If so, that should have been a red-carded act of foul play rather than a yellow, the decision which referee Jaco Peyper and his team of officials reached following a tackle where the scrum-half showed no clear wrap of the arms.

“I definitely thought there was contact with the head on the Faf de Klerk one,” said Gatland when asked at his post-game media briefing to review the incident that had taken place on the South African try line with the Lions threatening to score a try just before the interval.    

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“The officials saw it differently and you have just got to roll with it really. In terms of that, they ended up down to 13 men. In that situation, they gave away a huge number of penalties. From myself reviewing I thought there was definitely head contact but he [the referee] has given a yellow card and you have got to accept that decision.”

Loosehead Jones got on the scoresheet soon into the second half but he injured himself in the process and Gatland provided an assessment on that shoulder setback, the early first exit of Liam Williams with a concussion and also whether Stuart Hogg, who was unavailable for selection in the last three Lions matches due to isolation protocols, would be back in the mix this Saturday versus the Stormers. 

“Wyn had a bit of a stinger in his shoulder but I think he is going to be fine and Liam will need to go through the HIA protocols over the next week to get his return to play. Apart from that everyone has come through pretty well. He [Hogg] was on the pitch today doing some fitness work running, He will definitely get a hit out on Saturday.”


The Saturday game will definitely be against the Stormers despite Rassie Erasmus asking earlier this week if South Africa A could instead feature in that match. Gatland rebuffed the offer and it will leave Erasmus and co facing the Bulls to fine-tune their final preparations ahead of the Test series starting on July 24.  

That is a series which the recalled Lions tour skipper Alun Wyn Jones will be available for once he spends an initial few days in isolation in Cape Town from Thursday following his remarkable recovery from his June 26 shoulder dislocation. His imminent arrival will coincide with the Lions reflecting on numerous pleasing aspects from their midweek hit-out versus South Africa A despite the four-point loss.

“I was just really pleased with us, just how strong we looked in the second half and they started to flag a bit,” enthused Gatland. “There is no doubt they [South Africa] will benefit from having the game and they will have another hit-out this weekend but considering they were pretty much at full strength and we got a good feeling for how it was, we needed that tough hit-out and the players are pretty bullish in the changing room. 


“They feel pretty confident that we can handle whatever they throw at us going forward and we definitely will improve. We have to do a little work at the breakdown area, and we need to start a bit better than we did today but as we got into the game coming from behind I thought we look pretty strong and finished strong. Even that second last scrum pushing them back I thought we were very unlucky not to get a penalty from that. 

“I thought a few calls went against us but that happens in international rugby as well. I am not blaming the referee but a couple of tight calls, a couple of tries disallowed. Lots of positives for us and things that we can easily fix in terms of some of the things that we gave them to get into the game.”



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