Win will be tough says Berne

Former Bath centre Shaun Berne says that the Lions have it all to do if they are to beat the Springboks in Pretoria on Saturday. [more]

Win will be tough says Berne

Former Bath centre Shaun Berne says that the Lions have it all to do if they are to beat the Springboks in Pretoria on Saturday.

Berne has plenty of experience of playing in South Africa through his time with the New South Wales Waratahs in his native Australia and he knows exactly what the Lions will be up against.

The 30-year-old says that the hostile crowd the Lions can expect at Loftus Versfeld, together with the problem of altitude and the manner in which rugby is viewed on the High Veld, leaves the Lions with a mighty task if they are to level the three-match series.

“It’s a pat on the back to the British crowds here that they’re quite good and quite jovial,” said Berne, who has come to the end of his second spell at The Recreation Ground and is set to join 2009 Lions Luke Fitzgerald, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll at Heineken Cup holders Leinster next season.

“Going over to South Africa, having played there in the Super 14, you can get some really harsh crowds that say some really harsh things that I don’t think a British crowd would say or do.

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“Altitude is a whole different ball game and something the South Africans are used to. It’s going to take a bit of work to get a win at altitude.

“It’s cricket and rugby in South Africa and they’re played at different times of the year so they don’t really clash. Rugby’s the main sport there, unlike in Australia where we have rugby league and AFL. Rugby is a huge focus and the Lions tour is a huge event.”

Whereas the Lions have made five changes to their side for Saturday’s second Test, the Springboks have made just the one alteration, with Schalk Burger having recovered from injury.

Berne believes that such continuity in the South African set up makes the Lions’ task even harder, especially as they are still in the process of blending together the right combinations.

“South Africa have got that base,” added Berne.

“A few of their players might not have played in the team that won the World Cup but they’ve got that base and know each other’s games and that makes it a tough challenge for the Lions.

“The hardest part (for the Lions) is that they’ve got to get four nations who play four different styles of rugby and who are coached four different ways to come together. It’s a really tough job. It’s getting those combinations right.

“Having said that, the quality of player over here is definitely good enough.”

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