British & Irish Lions captain Paul O’Connell is in no doubt that the tourists can defy the odds by beating reigning world champions South Africa in Durban on Saturday.
The Lions have won all six of their provincial games to date but they have experienced serious problems at the breakdown and go into the game as underdogs.
However, O’Connell believes that The Lions have the ability to triumph at the King’s Park.
”We’ve definitely enough in our locker to do it. We’ve a very talented side. We know how we want to play so it’s just a case of going out and doing it,” he reasoned.
”We’ve fabulous players. We’ve a great back row, great pace in the back-line, a terrific front five.
”There’s no doubt that we’re going to need a few things to go our way, as any side does, but if we put together an 80-minute performance on Saturday there is no doubt that we can win.”
The Lions triumphed on their last visit to South Africa, in 1997, but they were beaten 2-1 by The Wallabies in 2001 and then suffered the ignominy of a series whitewash at the hands of The All Blacks four years ago.
O’Connell was a member of the side humiliated in New Zealand and he believes that this current pride of Lions is far better equipped to claim a series win.
And the Munster man puts that down to the way in which this Tour has been managed by head coach Ian McGeechan.
”I think a lot of the partnerships have played together a lot more than last time. We’re also probably a lot clearer in how we’re trying to play. We’ve be made aware of what we’re trying to do from day one and that’s made it all very simple and straightforward for us,” he explained.
However, O’Connell freely admits that The Lions will have to produce a performance of a far higher standard to anything they have shown to date if they are to topple The Springboks.
”We’re going to have be more accurate that we have been so far. We’ve been very good in training in that regard but now we’ve to bring it out on to the pitch,” he confessed.
”It’s happened for us at times but probably not enough, so hopefully we can do that on Saturday.
”The breakdown’s obviously going to be a very important part of the game and if we can secure quick ball, we’ve a back row and a back-line that can exploit that.”
O’Connell, though, is also of the opinion that the importance of pride and passion to The Lions’ cause cannot be overestimated.
”We’ve spoken throughout the tour about how special this is. We’re all very proud of where we come from, the clubs we play for, the countries we play for but, for us, this is the greatest jersey you can pull on,” he enthused.
” The dressing room before the games has taken a bit of getting used to. You need to get to know each other on the pitch but also in the dressing room; that atmosphere and camaraderie is very important.
”But it’s built nicely and I think that dressing room will be an emotional place to be on Saturday.”
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