Lions to summon up the Gauteng spirit to nail mighty Natal

The Super 12 phenomenon has transformed southern hemisphere rugby to such a degree that Martin Johnson's Lions have been forced to adopt a whole new playing philosophy just to give themselves an even chance of survival, writes Chris Hewett.

In South Africa, they do not come any more super than Natal, double Currie Cup champions and a side eminently capable of wrecking the tourists' buoyant self-confidence in Durban this afternoon.

It is, however, a mark of the visitors' unfathomable reserves of belief and spirit that they go into their latest provincial examination at King's Park as slight favourites. Johnson and company are on such a high that the police must be tempted to take a look inside the team doctor's medicine chest, but there was nothing illegal about the spine-tingling victory over Gauteng in Johannesburg on Wednesday that left the entire party refreshed and invigorated.

"As we've repeatedly said on this tour, there is no split between the Saturday and midweek sides," Johnson said yesterday. "We're all in this together and those who did not take part in the Gauteng match know that they need a big performance against Natal to keep pace with their rivals for a Test place. Wednesday night was all about spirit and it's up to us to repeat that here."

On this occasion, the Lions have access to some valuable inside information; Andy Keast, the Harlequins coach and a video-devouring tactical and technical assistant on this trip, spent two years with Natal from 1994 and guided them to Currie Cup glory in 1995. Keast was as delighted as anyone with the Gauteng triumph, but he did his level best yesterday to restore some sanity with a timely warning or two.

"Natal are the strongest side in South Africa," he confirmed. "They've got heaps of confidence - after all their success at home and in Super 12, they simply don't believe they can lose - and they are so powerful up front that they wear down even the most dangerous opponents.

"Sure, they've lost Andre Joubert ad Henry Honiball and Mark Andrews to the Springboks, but they have real depth to their squad.

"The Lions will find them different to Northern Transvaal and Gauteng. In fact, they may find Natal different to Natal in the sense that they might expand their game to suit the occasion. They're very useful from one to 15 and away from the pressures of the Currie Cup, they may well try to turn it on out wide."

With Kevin Putt, their wonderfully effective scrum-half, suffering from injury and Honiball confined to Bokke camp in advance of next weekend's opening Test in Cape Town, the Sharks, as they are known in Super 12, pair Robert de Preez and Hans Scriba in a veteran half-back partnership. Du Preez played for South Africa in their isolation-breaking showpiece with New Zealand in 1992, while Scriba has been only recently coaxed out of retirement.

Meanwhile, John Allan, the Natal hooker who played Tests for both Scotland and South Africa between 1990 and 1994, is moving in the opposite direction. Allan bids a fond farewell to the Sharks' front row after today's encounter to take up a coaching position with London Scottish.

"It's sad to be saying goodbye but I consider myself privileged to have been involved in it all," he said. "As the King's Park stands have grown bigger and bigger, the side has grown better and better."

NATAL: G Lawless; S Payne, J Thomson, P Muller, J Joubert; H Scriba, R du Preez; O le Roux, J Allan, R Kempson, J Slade, N Wegner, W van Heerden, D Kriese, W Fyvie (capt).

BRITISH ISLES: N Jenkins (Pontypridd and Wales); I Evans (Llanelli and Wales), A Bateman (Richmond and Wales), S Gibbs (Swansea and Wales), A Tait (Newcastle and Scotland); G Townsend (Northampton and Scotland), R Howley (Cardiff and Wales); T Smith (Watsonians and Scotland), K Wood (Harlequins and Ireland), D Young (Cardiff and Wales), M Johnson (Leicester and England, capt), S Shaw (Bristol and England), L Dallaglio (Wasps and England), E Miller (Leicester and Ireland), R Hill (Saracens and England).

Suggested Topics
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015