The British & Irish Lions stumbled to victory in their opening tour match against a scratch side of second division players, known as the Royal XV. The 37-25 win flattered the tourists as they were made to work hard at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
Ronan OGara notched up 22 points as the Lions fought back after being 18-3 down to the side that is made up of Vodacom Cup players comprising five different teams. Eigthman Jonathan Mokoena and scrumhalf Sarel Pretorious in particular showed their quality for the home side.
After an awful start to the match that lacked precision and composure, with Munsterman Keith Earls in particular having a shocker, the Lions battled back and showed their experience to regain the lead with four minutes remaining.
OGara added to his seven from seven kicks as he scored a try on the final whistle, taking the winning margin to a flattering 12 points.
It was a wake up call of note as the Lions showed nerves and rustiness, lacking execution and making numerous errors against a side that on paper, is by far the weakest that theyll face on tour.
Lee Byrne was the most impressive Lion on the day, with Jamie Roberts looking imposing and captain Paul OConnell leading from the front, mainly in the second half.
Former England captain Phil Vickery sees this as a wake up call.
“We could have easily lost that game. The guys showed a lot of guts and courage to stick in there. I think it is a good kick up the backside, which you need. The reality of what faces us on this tour is staring at us.
The British & Irish Lions next match is against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Wednesday. They’ll be up against a stronger side than the Royal XV, so the Lions will look to find cohesion and iron out the nerves that we saw on Saturday.