Lions coach Warren Gatland has played down the tit-for-tat exchanges between him and the Springboks’ director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, as “a bit of fun”.
Gatland and Erasmus have been locked in a war of words ever since the match between SA A and the Lions. Gatland fired the first salvo by suggesting Faf de Klerk should have seen red for his tackle on Josh Navidi.
Erasmus promptly responded on Twitter with a video highlighting some of the Lions’ own questionably legal tackles – particularly by Owen Farrell, who may consider himself lucky to have escaped sanction on two occasions.
Gatland has now fired back that he thought it was odd that Erasmus would choose such a public forum, but played down any suggestions that there was a feud between the two coaches.
“It was a bit surprising going to Twitter but you’ve got to accept things. It adds to the occasion, atmosphere and tension building up the Test series.
“It’s all a bit of fun, a game within a game.”
The Springboks and Lions will not need any more fuel to add to the fire as the Test series is now only six days away and the tension has reached fever pitch.
The Boks will be sweating on the fitness of a few key individuals including captain Siya Kolisi, Handre Pollard, Ox Nche and Bongi Mbonambi.
The Lions, on the other hand, have profited from the near miraculous recovery of Alun Wyn Jones who has returned to the squad (and assumed the captaincy) only three weeks after suffering what was thought to be a tour-ending shoulder injury.
Jones came off the bench against the Stormers and put in an impressive 27 minute cameo for the tourists. Speaking after the game, Gatland hinted that the Welsh veteran could be in line to start in the Test series.
‘It was a really good hit-out for Alun Wyn. I’ll have a chat to him and see how he fared and see how the lungs were. We’ll sit down in the next few days and start thinking about the Test team.
“It’s going to be a tough job picking the Test team because we have so many choices – in the back three and the loose forwards, the combinations in the second row and the midfield. There are a lot of guys putting their hands up.”