Tom Croft has a great deal of respect for Schalk Burger, but no more than he has for any of the other members of the Springbok loose trio.
Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland claimed that Burger’s lack of game time could limit his impact on Saturday’s Test.
‘The introduction of Burger will help their defence, but he hasn’t played a lot lately,’ Gatland told keo.co.za. ‘We expect 50 minutes from him and it [his inclusion] shows they must be concerned about our centre partnership [Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll]. Schalk is very physical, but he hasn’t played much rugby of late.’
While flanker Croft was more complimentary about the Bok No 6, he suggested that no special attention would be paid to Burger.
‘He’s world-class,’ Croft told this website. ‘But again I said it last week, any player who they pick for the Springboks is a very good player.’
‘Brussow did exceptionally well last week and was unfortunate to be dropped to the bench. Burger is a class player and a big threat, but so are the other members of that back row. So as a back row we’ll have to work hard to counteract their unit.’
Gatland stated that the Lions would not be bullied in any way on Saturday, and Croft echoed his coaches’ view and emphasised the importance of laying down a marker early in the game.
‘Last week, we were caught on the back foot. They scored the majority of their points in the first half which ultimately lost us the game, said Croft. ‘So we’ll be on the front foot. We won’t get caught like that again and we’ll start the game the way we finished the last.’
There were a number of occasions during last week’s game when things got a bit heated, and the England and Leicester forward said that the Lions pack would certainly not stand down if things were to spill over at Loftus.
‘We’ll give as good as we get. Last week we did stand up, obviously a few mistakes crept into our game, but we’ve rectified that in training and we’ll be going forward. We’re not a team to be written off. We’re a pack and a team that can win a Test series.’
Having not been selected in the original squad for last week’s Test in Durban, Croft was one of the standout players for the tourists, scoring two tries on his Lions Test debut.
The 23-year-old claimed the players were in good spirits ahead of Saturday’s clash at Loftus.
‘We’re all excited,’ added Croft. ‘We ended the first Test with a flourish and we were playing the rugby that we knew we could play. The boys are excited to play that same style again from the start, so there’s a good mood in camp.’
By Andrew Worling, in Cape Town