The Scottish Mail on Sunday
DAN BIGGAR: IT WAS OUR RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
WHAT an unbelievable feeling. In the dressing room after that special win we all huddled up and started belting out ‘Wild Rover’. Jack Conan kicked off the singing, then Jamie George got involved with some anthems of his own. The music was blaring, we had a couple of beers to celebrate and the boys then got into our chef Andre asking if he could source us a McDonalds for the bus journey home.
There are none near our hotel in Hermanus, though, so we had to ask him to make his own version!
Warren Gatland spoke to us straight after and said we’ve got another level in us. That was pure grit yesterday — it wasn’t the most thrilling game but sometimes you’ve just got to grind out Test wins.
There were errors on both sides, it was tight and cagey, but those are the ones you love coming out on top of.
The difference between winning and losing the first Test is enormous, so to come out on the right side is such a good feeling.
We’re used to it now but it was still so strange playing a Test match of this magnitude with no fans in the stadium — I’m sure the Lions supporters would have been bouncing at full-time after that.
I tried to treat it like any other game day, and continued my weird thing about not stepping onto the lines when I ran onto the pitch before the match!
In the week I played a couple of games of tennis with Louis Rees-Zammit, to calm the nerves.
After the team was named, we had a very tasty training session on the Tuesday. Some of the boys had a point to prove and it got a bit physical.
Tom Curry and Conor Murray were going at each other. Tom got caught on the wrong side of the ruck so Conor gave him a taste of his studs! There was a real edge and that’s what we needed going into the match.
After that session, the management had organised frame photos of all our families in each of our rooms. That was a nice perk up after team selection.
It was an unbelievably proud moment collecting my first Lions Test jersey on Friday night. For four years, my career has basically been geared towards that moment. There was a huge amount of relief because, as I said in last week’s column, it was a now or never moment.
For the presentation all our families, parents, girlfriends and wives read out each of our names, cap number and then had sent short video message.
My wife Alex got all of our friends to send in video messages saying congratulations and how proud they were. That was really nice. James Haskell text me saying: ‘You’ve come a long way since being in the bin juice team four years ago!’
Neil Jenkins came over to me on the training field and said: ‘Well done — I’m really proud of you’.
I broke this tour down into selections: warm-up games, selection and Test performance. I wanted to nail all three.
Before the game Gregor Townsend showed us a video of Muhammed Ali fighting George Foreman. The Rumble in the Jungle. Foreman was this big brute, brawn and heavy punches, and Ali had to move him around and tire him out.
Everyone knows how South Africa play and our motto was ‘make them miss and make them pay’.
We had to box clever and move them around. You can’t go toe-to-toe for 80 minutes.
Warren had given us a few presentations. The key messages were around the aerial battle and keeping our turnover rate low. If you lose those areas against the Springboks then you are going to be up against it.
We wanted to look after the catcher, protect them with legal blocks, and give our guys as many free catches as possible.
We wanted to put a lot of pressure on De Klerk’s kicking because you are less accurate if you have to hurry.
We wanted to be first to any loose balls and capitalise on any dropped catches. If you’re turning the ball over, dropping balls, missing touch then it’s opportunities for the Boks to regain field position. You don’t want to cough up the ball and give away territory.
We didn’t get the aerial dominance we would have liked, and didn’t fire too many shots in the first half but everyone was really calm at half-time. There was no shouting or screaming.
In the second half our attacking shape was much better, we controlled field position and won penalties.
Unfortunately I had to go off as when I came out of a ruck Siya Kolisi’s knee whacked me on the side of the head — I feel absolutely fine, and am already buzzing for next week.
We will have to raise it all over again, as South Africa will come twice as hard at us next Saturday.