Courtney Lawes has urged the British and Irish Lions to avoid being lured into South Africa’s trap of using niggle to tip the scales of Saturday’s series decider in their favour.
The success of the entire tour hinges on Saturday’s final chapter when the rivals clash for the third time at Cape Town Stadium and Lawes is ready to face more provocation from the scheming world champions.
A stormy second Test lasted over two hours and the Lions believe that a host of flashpoints were used as a deliberate tactic by the Springboks to slow the game down, protecting their weaker conditioning and suiting their big forwards.
Warren Gatland has urged referee Mathieu Raynal to be alert to South Africa’s dark arts, which also include instigating injury, cramp and stud change breaks, and Lawes knows the team must play their part by keeping the red mist in check.
“It’s going to be tough and there needs to be a conscious effort to stay out of that dog fight and niggle because I imagine that’s what they’re going to want to bring again,” Lawes said.
“We need to make a conscious effort to leave it alone and get back to what we want to do, which is trying to bring tempo to the game. They can throw the handbags around as much as they like as long as we can get that ball out and play some rugby.
“We can’t get too caught up in the niggle and scrapping because it just slows down the game and it doesn’t really help us. We like a high-tempo game – we are a fit team, we want to run around, we want the ball in hand so we need to try and speed the game up as much as we can.
We like a high-tempo game – we are a fit team, we want to run around, we want the ball in hand so we need to to try and speed the game up as much as we can.
“They came with a clear gameplan last weekend and that was to slow the game down. Their strategy paid off – they slowed it down. When they are not tired they are going to scrum well and because they are big, strong men they are going to maul well.”
A tour that began with a training camp in Jersey in mid-June ends with 11-nights’ quarantine at the same location, but its critical point arrives on Saturday night and Lawes insists the Lions must not leave South Africa with regrets.
“Winning against South Africa in South Africa is just a massive achievement,” the England flanker said. “That’s what we are going for.
“We have given an awful lot to this tour, and for each other and it means a great deal to us. We have to go out there and express ourselves and show that.
“Tours are always the same. They feel like you’ve been there forever, but they fly by at the same time. It’s very strange but one last big hit and then it’s all done. That makes it easier to put it all out there and give everything you’ve got.”
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