Lions need another big performance to worry Springboks

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Despite scoring 10 tries and 74 points against a Super 14 team, the British and Irish Lions have to follow that up with another special performance against the Cheetahs on Saturday if world champion South Africa are to worry about losing the upcoming test series.

In their second tour match, the Lions lifted their game to outplay the Golden Lions at Johannesburg's Ellis Park on Wednesday although they were helped by some feeble tackling and woefully inept play by the home side's pack.

Now the Lions are in the City of Roses to take on another Super 14 struggler and need to come up with another top quality, mistake-free performance to give some hope of beating the Boks to an estimated 11,000 fans who will fly out for the three tests.

"There is a huge amount of competition right throughout the squad," said Ugo Monye, an England winger who was one of three players to score two tries against the Golden Lions in the 74-10 romp. "Shane Williams is world player of the year, Tommy Bowe can't stop scoring tries, Luke Fitzgerald has just won a (European) Cup, and hopefully, there is me as well.

"It is about pushing each other and keeping raising the bar, and I think a lot of the boys did that. We've been together a couple of weeks now, and it's getting the combinations working and feeding off other guys."

When the Lions struggled in their opening game - beating a Royal XV side 37-25 after trailing by 12 points late in the game - they seemed to have little to worry World Cup holder South Africa when they meet in tests at Durban (20 June), Pretoria (27 June) and Johannesburg (4 July).

The performance at Ellis Park, however, has convinced observers that they have the quality players to at least compete with the Boks.

"They put some combinations out there. Their game has picked up quite a bit and they have reasonable time to prepare and a lot of games," said Boks' backs coach Dick Muir. "So we will be able to take a lot from that.

"For starters, I thought their center combination (Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll) looked good. It is no doubt more motivation for us the way their centers played. I am not surprised at how much they played because you play as well as the opposition allow. But they played with good width and put in a lot of work off the ball."

But Muir warned that the improved Lions performance was expected and would not give the Springboks side, who are strong favorite to win the series, any headaches.

"This is a fantastic Lions squad and you can see the synergy and camaraderie developing," he said: "(But) our midfield combinations have been tried and tested against the best and they have a lot of pride in their defense. So it does not pose worries."

Going on their Super 14 results, the Cheetahs should not worry the Lions either, having finished last in the South Hemisphere club championship after winning two of their 13 games. They will also be weakened on Saturday by the absence of captain Juan Smith, who is training with the Springboks.

The Cheetahs lineup will include four players - Wian du Preez, Heinrich Brussow, Meyer Bosman and Adriaan Strauss - who played in a South African XV that beat a Namibian invitation rugby side 36-7 last Friday at Windhoek but failed to make it to the Springboks squad for the tests.

The Lions, who are due to name their lineup later today, are expected to have tour captain Paul O'Connell back in the starting side at lock forward with Martyn Williams in the back row. England prop Andrew Sheridan also wants to overcome foot blisters to face the Cheetahs.

There's also a chance that Wales winger Leigh Halfpenny and Ireland center Gordon D'Arcy, who have flown out late to join the squad, will play some part.

But New Zealand-born center Riki Flutey, who was injured in the opening game, looks certain to miss out.