South Africa v British & Irish Lions, Pretoria, June 27
O'Driscoll challenges Lions to hit back
June 26, 2009
Brian O'Driscoll has challenged his Lions team-mates to up their game in Pretoria © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll has demanded that his team-mates hit the ground running in their must-win second Test meeting with South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday.
O'Driscoll was a constant menace alongside his centre partner Jamie Roberts in the Lions' narrow 26-21 loss to the Springboks last weekend, and has stated that they cannot afford to claw back another big lead at Loftus Versfeld. The home side raced in to a 26-7 lead at Kings Park last time out before a late surge by the tourists, but O'Driscoll knows that they have to play from the opening whistle in order to take the spoils.
"Some of the rugby played at the weekend showed some confidence and that we can play the game we want to. We have to bring that out from the kick-off this weekend because we can't afford to give them a 19-point lead and chase it back," said O'Driscoll. "We probably didn't play early enough last weekend and that was to our detriment. Hopefully we can play earlier in the first-half tomorrow, cut off the Springboks and make them work for their scores a little bit more than we did last weekend.
"Obviously we were hopeful to win that game but it's done now and we are out to win Test two and three, and it is as simple as that."
The Lions have bulked up their pack for the second Test, with their front-row ranks bolstered by hooker Matthew Rees and prop Adam Jones, while veteran lock Simon Shaw has been called in to aid in the defending of the Springboks' fearsome rolling maul.
Despite the focus on the forwards and the increased weight in defence, Lions skipper Paul O'Connell believes that his side has to go out and play adventurous rugby if they are to secure a series decider in Johannesburg next weekend.
"We have to go out and play," he said. "That is when we have been at our best, when we have retained the ball and put it through the hands. That is when we have really put teams under pressure.We conceded a lot of penalties during the first 40 minutes last week. When you concede penalties, you concede possession, territory and points. We need to eradicate that."
The second Test will be played at altitude, but the Lions have chosen to remain at sea-level for their preparations. From their base in Cape Town they will head to Pretoria, hoping that the effects of altitude do not have time to take hold. The tourists struggled at altitude in their opening game against a Royal XV in Rustenberg, but O'Connell believes that they can handle the change this time around.
"I think we are better equipped. We had a very good period of time at altitude at the start of the tour," he said. "We've done plenty of training at altitude and we have every confidence in the doctors. It is not all in the mind. There is something there, but it is not massive. You have to dig deep when the burn comes on at the end."