From Paul Morgan – Editor of Rugby World Magazine
Apart from Andrew Sheridan, Ronan O’Gara, Jamie Roberts and Lee Byrne few people can have been happy with what occurred at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, when the British and Irish Lions kicked off their tour of South Africa with a very unconvincing 37-25 win over a Royal XV, which contained not one player who was a Super 14 regular for anyone.
It would be easy to be gloomy as that performance added up to a awful hammering in the series against South Africa.
Of course the Royal XV were praised after the match, but these are Currie Cup players. A good standard but we are led to believe the Heineken Cup is the same standard as the Super 14, then the Currie Cup is somewhere near the bottom of the Guinness Premiership!
They failed to cope with the conditions and were lacklustre up front in almost everything they did, which was shocking, leaving some of the players looking very old.
Speaking to Rob Howley after the game the coaches seemed shocked with how badly some areas went and I think Warren Gatland’s comment that the game was a “wake-up call” hit the nail best.
Obviously there is no need to panic, but it puts a lot of pressure on the O’Driscoll, Hines, O’Callaghan, Murray, Jenkins et al who will play against the Golden Lions on Wednesday and those that back up against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Two more performances like this, even if they win, will make a Test series victory very unlikely.
The crowd must have been calculated by a British MP as they reckoned it was 12,352. Not in a million years – 6,000 at most as everyone within 100 miles of Rustenburg was glued to the Super 14, where the Blues smashed the Chiefs.
So what did we learn?
* The Lions need to get the Mike Phillips-Stephen Jones- Jamie Roberts-Brian O’Driscoll axis into action pretty quickly to see if it work its magic.
* The altitude really hurt the Lions, but surely they should have known about that before
* Lee Byrne has the ability to become the best full-back in the world
* Andrew Sheridan looks ready for a big tour.
* The Lions can get an edge on South Africa in the front row as they have a very good scrummaging unit.
But what do you think?