VIDEO: Gatland claims 'victory' after loss to SA 'A'
REACTION: British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland claimed ‘victory’ from his team’s 13-17 loss to South Africa in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Gatland said his players were “pretty bullish” despite the result.
“They feel pretty confident we can handle whatever they throw at us, going forward,” Gatland said – looking at the three-Test series starting on July 24.
Gatland said it is the type of game they needed at this stage of the tour.
“That was as close to a Test match as you are going to get,” the B&I Lions coach said.
“I thought we got more out of tonight than South Africa.
“The players were pretty bullish in the changing room,” adding that he expected the Test series to be “a real arm wrestle”.
Gatland said he was proud of the way his team came back from being down 3-17 at half-time.
“We finished the stronger team and they wilted a bit,” said the New Zealand-born coach.
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He said they “will improve” ahead of next week’s opening Test and suggested they need to do “a bit of work” at the breakdown area.
He also believed the result could easily have gone the way of the Lions.
“We got over their line a couple of times and had two tries disallowed and we had a kick charged down which enabled them to score a try.
“There were also one or two decisions which did not go our way.”
One of those decisions was a yellow card to South African scrumhalf Francois de Klerk shortly before half-time, which Gatland thought was “definitely” contact with the head and could have resulted in a red card
Gatland said he was pleased with the way the Lions stood up to a powerful South African pack in the scrums.
He also said the Lions had not given away all their secrets during a bruising encounter.
“There are some plays that we have been working on and we will keep working on them leading up to the Test matches.
“It’s important to keep a few things back.”
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* Meanwhile Gatland said the issue of the tour captaincy would be discussed when originally appointed captain Alun Wyn Jones arrives in Cape Town on Thursday.
Scrumhalf Conor Murray, who led the Lions on Wednesday, was given the tour leadership when lock Wyn Jones was ruled out because of a shoulder injury from which he has since recovered.
“We will sit down with him and Conor and decide,” he said.
Murray suggested he would be happy to hand it over.
“I want to win the Test series and Alun has proved that he is a great leader,” he said.
Murray said he was pleased with the way the Lions fought back.
“We discussed a few things at half-time and you saw how things went in the second half. I would have loved to win, but I think we can be proud of our effort.”
* Additional reporting by AFP