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'SA teams haven't changed the way they play since the age of man'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Maro Itoje sounded convinced that the Lions already know exactly what they will face in their three-game Test series versus the Springboks following Wednesday’s night narrow loss to the South Africa A side in Cape Town. Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus fielded an A team packed with World Cup winners and seasoned Test players and Itoje believes the action that unfolded was brilliant to ensure the Lions are fully primed when the Test series gets underway in Cape Town on July 24.   


“South Africa, there is no real subtlety about how they play,” said Itoje in a post-game TV interview on Sky Sports. “South African teams haven’t changed the way they play since the age of man but they do it very well. 

“We learned about the intensity at which they play and for us, we learned about the things that we need to tidy up. This is going to be a brilliant, brilliant lesson for us going forward, the type of thing we needed to see where we are at.”

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The England lock outlined what went wrong for the Lions in a first-half that ended with them trailing 3-17 and then what they fixed in the second half of a match that ultimately finished 13-17 with the tourists coming with a whisker at times of taking the lead. 

“The first half especially we just gave them a few things a little bit too easy. The Springboks are a very good side and they take advantage of those mistakes but this is brilliant for us. We have been wanting a proper test, this was definitely a proper test and this is going to be immeasurably beneficial for us going forward.

“It was pretty much bettering plan A. In the first half, the breakdown wasn’t good enough. There was too many turnovers, too many loose balls and if my memory serves correct we weren’t broken down through phases we were broken down through turnover and taking advantage of those opportunities. We tried to tidy that up and that is a brilliant lesson for us going forward.”


Former Lions out-half Ronan O’Gara, the current La Rochelle boss, was also involved in the Sky Sports coverage. He added: “I thought Itoje’s interview was fascinating, very revealing they are pretty certain what they are going to be facing in terms of the South African team coming at them. 

“If they are smart in attack and if they can keep the ball and get tempo in their game they can cause major problems for South Africa. This (loss) could be a turning point in the tour for them. They are a very different team if you have to chase South Africa as opposed to if you manage to lead against them it becomes a very different game.

“Their game plan isn’t suited to being behind yet if they go ahead, they keep control of the scoreboard and with their aggressive defence and their kicking plan, that is very much suited but if the Lions were to lead it causes all kinds of problems and if they can be brave with the ball the Lions will get a lot of the three Tests.”   



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