Gatland on the attack

Warren Gatland had a go at Marius Jonker’s handling of the scrum as well as Jake White’s analysis of Saturday’s tour opener.

Jonker made numerous mistakes, effecting the progress of both sides, in the Lions’ 37-25 victory over the Royal XV. The British press have bemoaned the handling of the scrum area, where they felt Andrew Sheridan wasn’t allowed to assert his perceived dominance at scrum-time with the Royal XV front-row standing up.

However, Sheridan appeared to repeatedly slip the binding with his left arm, which didn’t allow Bees Roux to bind over him. This happened numerous times when Jonker was on the other side of the set-piece, but Gatland believes the official went into the match looking to penalise the English loosehead.

‘We’ll have to wait and see how the refs blow the scrum area, but on Saturday it seemed fairly pre-conceived,’ the Lions forwards coach barked. ‘It was a very quick call to say No 1 Red was turning in. The only penalty at scrum-time was against us.

‘We were dominant and put them under huge pressure,’ he asserted. ‘In South Africa it is the one are of the game that must be good if you want to win.’

White had commented that he was surprised at the lack of physicality exhibited by the Lions’ pack, a view shared by Jeremy Guscott.

‘If Jake White said it, it must be right then,’ the Wales coach said in a sarcastic tone.

Gatland then conceded this as an area of improvement ahead of their next fixture against the Lions at Ellis Park  on Wednesday.

‘It’s all about matching the power and physicality of the southern hemisphere players at the collisions. We have to improve drastically at the breakdowns [where they conceded 14 turnovers in the first half alone]. At the rucks we have to get low and be hitting them really hard.

‘That is the challenge on tour, to develop that attitude where every collision is viewed as 100%. Our boys have to be really aggressive to get that front-foot ball for the backs to play off.’

Gatland was impressed with the nature of the Bulls’ Super 14 final win, but was confident the Lions could match the South Africans at the contact points.

‘I’ve been saying it for a while: The northern hemisphere players are equal, if not better, physical specimens than the guys down south. It’s just about adapting to the tempo of the game and raising our play.

‘The Bulls’ players were very impressive on Saturday. They would have beaten any team in the world the way they played, even international sides. We will have to match that.’

By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg