How Gatland inspired his British & Irish Lions troops

25 July 2021 - 16:32 By Liam Del Carme
The British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is aiming for a series victory.
The British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is aiming for a series victory.
Image: David Rogers/Getty Images

A tactical switch and a plead for calm at half time proved coaching master strokes as the British & Irish Lions surged to an opening Test win over the Springboks on Saturday.

Coach Warren Gatland saw his team go 12-3 down into the break but then he did what he gets paid to do.

He inspired and imparted wisdom.

“I just told the players‚ let’s be patient and keep our composure‚ the opportunities will come‚” he said.

He also told them to kick at goal only when three easy points were on offer.

“Kick for touch and put them under pressure in their 22‚” he also advised.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie soon benefited from a line-out drive.

“The try from the maul was pretty important‚ then the scrums started to stabilise and we got a bit of dominance there‚” said Gatland.

“Once we started to take it through some phases‚ particularly when we got on the front foot‚ they conceded a number of penalties.”

Dan Biggar duly punished the Boks but while the Lions made significant gains in territory and possession‚ the hosts still proved a threat. Two long range efforts were ruled out after TMO review.

“Nic Berry refereed really well‚ he was clear in his instructions with the TMO and I was pleased with the officials‚” said Gatland.

He was tight lipped about a second-half tip-tackle by replacement Hamish Watson on fullback Willie le Roux‚ who later had to leave the field with injury.

Despite generally getting the rub of the green Gatland did offer a counter view on Faf de Klerk’s try.

“We’ve seen an angle on the try they’ve scored where it’s hit (Pieter-Steph) Du Toit’s hand‚ but sometimes you have to live with those decisions.”

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was philosophical about the close calls.

“I completely trust the officials‚” Nienaber said. “That is their jobs‚ they are the professionals in that field.

“They are in a better position and have many angles to look at.

“Sometimes these calls go against you‚ as we found out.

“In the second half we had three try scoring opportunities‚ twice we were called back.

“Those is the small margins in this game.”