Distance coaching and mind games in preparation for Lions’ toughest test

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Johannesburg (AFP)

British and Lions attacker coach Gregor Townsend has had to resort to virtual training as tourists prepare for the first real challenge of their South African tour.

Townsend remained in quarantine in Johannesburg due to Covid-19 when the Lions moved to Cape Town over the weekend.

The former Scottish opening half is only due to join the squad on Wednesday, too late to play any practical role in preparing for what could be a crucial encounter against a South African side loaded with Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on the same. day.

It will be the Lions’ fourth game after shattering wins over the exhausted franchises of the Lions and Sharks, who have faced the Tourists twice.

Kicking coach Neil Jenkins said on Tuesday that Townsend communicated through the Zoom conferencing app, adding that his absence had not been a major issue.

He said the other coaches were able to pass Townsend’s information on to the players in training.

“That’s all of us. Gats (head coach Warren Gatland) is leading just like he always does, (defense coach) Steve (Tandy) and myself and the players.

“We have fantastic players here who can lead both on and off the pitch. Everyone is teaming up, everyone is helping.”

– Gatland rebuff –

As the tour comes to an end in the form of the first test in Cape Town on July 24, Springbok rugby director Rassie Erasmus is trying to put together a plan B after his request for a second match in South Africa A was pushed back by Gatland.

The Springboks’ second scheduled test against Georgia last Friday was canceled due to the coronavirus and the players were unable to train last week as they were in forced isolation by Covid.

With some players still in quarantine, Erasmus will field what are arguably his best team available on Wednesday and wanted a chance to bring other players into action on Saturday with another ‘A’ game to replace the Stormers’ scheduled game. against the Lions.

With the two top coaches involved in what some commentators have called “mind games”, Erasmus hopes to secure a game against the Pretoria-based Bulls franchise in Cape Town on Saturday.

The Bulls were scheduled to face the Lions in Pretoria last Saturday but had to withdraw due to a Covid outbreak in the camp.

Cape Town has been hit by heavy rain in recent days, but Wednesday’s game is expected to be played on a clear but cold day.

After several weeks of sunny winter conditions in Johannesburg, the Lions trained in the wind and rain in Hermanus, a town east of Cape Town.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system – in some ways we had it easy in Johannesburg with the good weather there,” said hooker Ken Owens.

“Now we have wind and rain. It really tests our skills and our execution in difficult conditions.”

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