Rugby Union: 'We're still five weeks young'

Tony Wallace hears a victorious coach promise even more to come
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The Independent Online
Cape Town has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for the Lions. In far too many of their appearances there, the Lions have been more hunted than hunters. And this, despite the fact that the conditions at Newlands make it very similar to a European venue, and distinctly different from Durban or Johannesburg.

Surprisingly, this was only the fourth time the Lions have been victorious there in 106 years, and on two of those occasions - in 1891 and 1974 - they won the series. More importantly, and this is the precedent which will most concern the Springboks, only once before - in New Zealand in 1930 - have the Lions won the first Test and then lost the series.

Gary Teichmann, the Springboks' captain, refused to put defeat down to the fact that none of his team had appeared for their provinces in the early tour games. "We knew what the Lions were about even though our players missed those matches," said Teichmann. "To be fair, we fell for Dawson's dummy. Andre Joubert, Andre Snyman and I took it and are to blame.

"I have to say, their scrum went well. Probably better than we thought it would. They've worked hard at it and were pretty solid. And their defence was very well organised, but then so was ours."

Martin Johnson, the Lions' captain, was understandably delighted with the winning start."The standard of play we have produced on this tour has surprised quite a few people, but the sheer physicality of their style of play has taken some getting used to," said Johnson.

Carel du Plessis, the Springboks' coach, described the match as one of lost opportunities. "The Lions took their chances very well. We made mistakes towards the end and it cost us the match. But to give credit to the Lions, they played well. It's a disappointing start, but I am confident we can do better. Moreover, I don't see major changes to the team for the next Test."

Ian McGeechan, the Lions' coach, who on both his previous tours in charge, has made a losing start, said: "At least I don't have that problem this time, but there is still a long way to go.

"Our defence today was awesome and we conceded only one penalty when we were right up against it, but our scrum was compact and in the line- out Jeremy Davidson was tremendous. Remember, we're still five weeks young, and in that time we've come on a lot.

"What pleased me was that although the Boks scored two good tries, we rode the storm and, towards the end, our option-taking improved."

Alan Tait, one of the Lions' try-scorers, said: "We have come out of this match with a great deal of respect, and the Springboks now know exactly what they're up against."

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