CAPE TOWN, July 24 (Reuters) - Maro Itoje believes the British & Irish Lions were full value for their 22-17 victory over South Africa in the first test in Cape Town on Saturday, but says they will have to go up another gear to claim the three-game series at the same venue next week.
The English lock was outstanding, with strength at the set-piece and a number of steals at the breakdown, and was one of the major factors in the side bouncing back from a 12-3 halftime deficit to claim the win.
But if there is to be a repeat next Saturday, they cannot afford to make a slow start again.
“The first half we came out with a decent intensity, but not the intensity that we needed to,” Itoje told reporters. “But most importantly, to our detriment we were giving away a lot of silly penalties and were not as disciplined as we needed to be.
“Second half we came out with a higher intensity and so were able to put more pressure on them. We had to trust ourselves more and our systems.”
The Lions were noticeably fresher in the final 20 minutes against a Bok side that has played one test in 20 months and had various COVID-19-related issues that stopped some players training in the build-up to the game.
“We have worked hard here in South Africa behind the scenes,” Itoje says. “We back ourselves to play for the full 80. It was not a surprise, we just had to show more faith in our ability.
“They (South Africa) are big on analysis, they will pick out trends and ways they can improve. They are just going to come with a higher intensity. They will come harder at the scrum, line-out and their kicking game.
“That is probably where they got the most out of us today, so they will look to attack that. We need to be better in all three of those areas, especially our kicking game and breakdown.”
Itoje adds there is plenty of work still to do to claim the series win.
“Game-by-game we are getting better and learning lessons. Looking back at the 2001 series in Australia, they (the Lions) won the first test quite convincingly, but then lost the next two,” he said.
“We are happy with the win, but we know we need to be better next week.” (Reporting by Nick Said Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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