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Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 16:25 UK

Lions focus on breakdown battle

South Africa flanker Schalk Burger
Boks flanker Schalk Burger is a ferocious presence at the contact area

Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland says the breakdown area will hold the key to the tourists' hopes of success against world champions South Africa.

The Springboks can boast the likes of Schalk Burger and Juan Smith to contest possession at rucks, and Gatland says the Lions must fight fire with fire.

"If we're not dynamic at the breakdown, we're going to come up short," he said.

"That is one of the things we have been working on - it's a hugely important facet of the game."

South Africa's success in recent years has been built upon a ferocious pack, with a back five - including peerless second rows Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha - capable of taking on the best in the world.


But Gatland says the Lions, who will be able to call on back-row talent like Martyn Williams, David Wallace, Stephen Ferris and Joe Worsley, will be prepared for the physical challenge.

"We've taken a few clips of the Super 14 and shown the players the dynamism at the breakdown - and we've got to make sure we match that and be prepared to be very physical," he said.

"Every tackle, every hit has to be 100%, and if you are not prepared to do that, you are going to come up short."

And despite the disruptive build-up that has seen Tomas O'Leary, Tom Shanklin and Jerry Flannery all ruled out of the tour through injury, Gatland is confident of his side's prospects.

"I think we are a lot further forward than we expected to be after the first week," he added.

"We have been very pleased - the guys have picked up the calls really quickly. If we thought it was hopeless, I don't think we should be here.

"You've got to come with that desire, ambition and self-belief to put a performance together.

"If we can play well for 80 minutes, be accurate and put South Africa under pressure, then we have got a chance of winning."

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