South Africa v British and Irish Lions: First Test match preview
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Dan Biggar will need to pass a concussion test every day this week if he is to play in Saturday’s Second Test. The British & Irish Lions stand-off, who kicked 14 points on Saturday, was taken off in the 67th minute after being accidentally caught by the knee of South African captain Siya Kolisi in a ruck.
Although he reported no ill-effects afterwards Biggar, who has suffered concussion issues in the past, has to clear six stages of the return-to-play protocol before he can be confirmed as a starter on Friday.
He will also be unable to train fully with the squad. If he was to be ruled out, the Lions have an experienced back-up in Owen Farrell, who came off the bench to kick the final penalty in the First Test.
But with Finn Russell struggling with an Achilles problem a promotion for Farrell would probably mean a bench role for Marcus Smith who has just one international cap.
Lions coach Warren Gatland also has a call to make at loose-head prop with Wyn Jones, who pulled out of the First Test on the day of the game with a shoulder problem, expected to be fit.
While Rory Sutherland, who took his place, had some scrum issues, Mako Vunipola was outstanding as a second half replacement.
Kyle Sinckler and Ken Owens also performed well off the bench in the front row as the Lions defused the fabled South African ‘bomb squad’.
“The bench I thought was great for us,” said Gatland. “The impact of our bench was probably more significant than theirs. That was pleasing.”
The Lions launched a stunning second half turnaround in Cape Town to down world champions South Africa, winning 22-17.
Trailing 12-3 at half time, they turned the game on its head after the break, punishing the fading Springboks for their indiscipline to draw first blood in the series.
And Maro Itoje has urged the Lions to push on and make history against the Springboks on Saturday in the face of “fire and anger” from the wounded world champions.
Itoje, man of the match in the First Test win, knows a Bok-lash is coming but believes the Lions can lift themselves to even greater heights as they look to seal a series win in South Africa for the first time in 24 years on Saturday.
“Winning a Test match with the Lions is rare – we only play once every four years and it’s unique – but this will mean nothing unless we go out and win next week,” said Itoje.
“This is a great win and I’m proud to be part of this match but we know that we need to do a job next week. That’s when it really counts.
“I’m a man who likes to look at history and see how other tours have unfolded. Looking at the 2001 Tests in Australia, the Lions won the first Test quite convincingly and then went on to lose the next two.
“There’s so much growth in this team. Game by game we’re getting better, we’re learning lessons so I think there is more to come from us. We’re happy but we know that we need to be better next week and stronger. The Springboks – we know they are coming.”
Springboks try scorer Faf de Klerk has warned the Lions to expect a ferocious response in the Second Test but after giving away 14 penalties on Saturday a focused one too.
“We are a proud nation and we’ll definitely make sure that we rectify the mistakes we made,” said de Klerk.
“We will definitely come back with a bit more fire in our belly and anger but we need to control that anger to make sure our discipline is in check. I think if our discipline is good we should be all good going forward but it’s going to be another massive challenge next week.
“We like our backs against the wall, we can fight back from it. We wanted to win this first one but it is a three- Test series and we need to keep our heads up.”
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