Lawes warns Lions to avoid ‘handbags’ with Springboks in decider


Courtney Lawes is tackled by Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff

Courtney Lawes believes The British & Irish Lions must not get caught up in the way the Springboks want to play if they are to win the Test series decider.

A grandstand finish awaits the tourists in the Tour finale at Cape Town Stadium as they look to seal a first series victory against the reigning world champions since 1997.

South Africa responded to losing the first Test to Warren Gatland’s men by taking the second match 27-9, scoring 21 unanswered points in a dominant second-half display.

Preview: South Africa v Lions

And Lawes has warned the Lions that they cannot afford to get drawn into handbags with the hosts again if they are to end that 24-year wait for a series triumph on South African soil.

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“I think we can’t get too caught up in the niggle of stuff, scrapping and all that stuff. It just slows down the game and it doesn’t really help us,” said the England international.

“We like a high-tempo game. We want to run around, we want the ball in hand so we can’t get caught up in that and we need to try and speed the game up as much as we can.

“They came with a clear game plan in the last game and that was to slow the game down. I think we’re a really fit team and we want to move the ball and try and play a lot.

Courtney Lawes

“The second half of the first Test we showed that if we do that, they are going to struggle to keep up with us and it affects their scrum and mauling but their strategy paid off in the second Test.

“They were able to slow it down and when they are not tired, they are going to scrum well and maul well as they are big, strong men – especially when you are giving them penalties.

“It’s going to be tough and it will be a conscious effort to stay out of that niggle as I’m imagining that’s going to be what they want to bring again. We just have to leave it alone.

“We want to get back to what we’re doing, bringing tempo to the game. They can throw their handbags around as much as they like as long as we can get that ball out and play some rugby.”

In Pictures: Lions train for series decider

Lawes, who also toured with the Lions in 2017, admitted he doubted whether he would make the touring squad to South Africa due to being injured at the time of the announcement.

But having been selected by Gatland for his second Tour, the 32-year-old has gone on to start all three Tests for the Lions having only made two substitute cameos against the All Blacks.

“It obviously a massive honour for me and a really big goal of mine to start a Test for the Lions so to be able to get three is amazing, it really is and that was one of my goals,” he said.

Courtney Lawes

“But it’s not my job, come this weekend my job is to get out there and give what I can give to the team and that’s what I am to do. I think we’ve [the back row] got on really well.

“We’ve got a really good balance and we work and play together well. We complement each other and it’s great to be able to go through the series being able to work off each other like this.

“I didn’t have much faith that I was going to get on the Tour as I was injured when the team got announced and was still around three weeks away from playing again.

“As soon as I got the call, I had faith in myself that I could get myself into a position to be a contender for either the second row or six when we got on the Tour.”

Aki having ‘time of his life’ with Lions

The Lions gave away 15 penalties to South Africa’s ten in the second Test while they also conceded 14 turnovers as Jacques Nienaber’s men overhauled a 9-6 half-time deficit.

With history beckoning for the tourists, Northampton Saints forward Lawes wants the men in red to learn from the mistakes of their defeat and to save their very best until last.

“It’s obviously massive for us, we’ve given an awful lot to this Tour and for each other, so it means a great deal to us and we have to go out there and express ourselves,” he said.

“Winning a series against South Africa in South Africa is a massive achievement regardless of the situation so that’s what we’re going for. It is a very different Tour to what we’re used to.

Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry and Jack Conan celebrate after the game

“We’ve adapted well and we’ve got on well with it. It’s going to be another up-front game again this weekend, especially the first half and we had a good first half in the last game.

“They went really well mauling and in the scrum but I think around the field we were still up there with them but it’s the little nuances, penalties and stuff, we can’t give them an in.

“We can’t give them a chance to impose themselves in the maul and the scrum so if we can get them moving around that will help us. There are legal ways in rugby to be physical.

“We showed that in the first half but in the second half we got it wrong, so we’ll look to correct our mistakes and the discipline is a massive part of that for us.

“I don’t think we have yet [seen the best of the Lions]. I think this weekend is really exciting, this is a new team and we’re excited to get out there and put what we can do on the pitch.”

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