Veteran Lions lock Simon Shaw believes he’s been brought into the starting XV for the second Test to combat the physicality of the Bok second row.
The Wasps and England hard man finally gets his first Lions Test cap after missing out during the tours of 1997 and 2005, and Shaw admits he had to contain himself when he was informed of his inclusion.
‘I was struggling not to smile,’ Shaw told keo.co.za. ‘I’ve been on the other side so many times, so I really didn’t want seem to be smug about it.
‘But we all went out for a meal afterward and there were lots of pats on the back and handshakes so that was a nice feeling.’
The Springbok pack bossed proceedings in the first Test until a string of substitutions by the hosts saw the momentum swing in the Lions’ favour.
While the second-half display was much improved, the tourists clearly identified a need to beef up their pack for Saturday’s Test in Pretoria, and that’s where Shaw comes in.
‘Undoubtedly in the first 40 minutes the Boks had an edge and I guess that’s why I’ve been brought in, but you would have to ask the coaches that.
‘But I am just going to bring to the game what I bring to most games’
Shaw knows exactly what to expect from his opponent Bakkies Botha on Saturday, but claims that at this stage in his career he doesn’t have time to be concerned with what his opponents are capable of.
‘He [Botha] is obviously a class player, and the pair of them [Botha and Matfield] are probably ranked as the best second row in the world at the moment,’ said Shaw. ‘But at the same time I don’t really fear any of my opposite numbers.
‘I played against them twice during the World Cup and it was tough, but I’ve looked back at tapes of those games and I think as a pack we more than matched them. We got a lot of criticism for getting done over in the lineout, but in actual fact I don’t think we lost the ball that night [in Paris] and it gave me great confidence to know that I can do it again.
‘I’ve just got to do what I do best, and that’s what I’ve been picked for and hopefully I can just do it better than Bakkies does it.’
The 35-year-old is the only member of the playing squad to have been involved in the Lions’ last tour to South Africa, and is confident that the side has what it takes to level the series at Loftus.
‘The belief has been there from the day we met,’ said Shaw. ‘There’s a lot of winners in this squad, Heineken Cup winners, Premiership winners and World Cup winners, so we’ve certainly got what it takes.’
By Andrew Worling, in Cape Town