Things can only get better for Lions, says Hawick’s Stuart Hogg
Things can only get better for the British and Irish Lions after they got off to a winning start in South Africa at the weekend, according to Stuart Hogg, captain for the first game of the tour.
The tourists beat the Sigma Lions 56-14 in their opening match on South African soil on Saturday, July 3, but ex-Hawick star Hogg is well aware that the three tests lined up against the Springboks later this month and in August will present a far tougher challenge.
That’s a challenge the multinational side are up for, though, as far better is yet to come from them, reckons the 29-year-old.
“The exciting thing is we can get better,” said the Scotland captain.
“We can get better individually and we can get better collectively.
“It’s far from the finished article. We’ll continue to work, continue to learn and continue to get better.
“We’re excited about the next few weeks.”
According to Hogg, it will be dogged as does it if the Lions are to get the better of the Springboks and hard graft will sometimes have to take precedence over flair.
“At times we went to dark places. We made ourselves uncomfortable in the way that we were defending, the way that we were trying to attack,” said Hogg refelecting on Saturday’s game.
“We wanted to win the no-talent battles, things that require no talent, and that’s getting up off the deck and getting yourself back in the game and making it as difficult as we possibly can for the opposition.
“At times we got that spot on, but, for me, the exciting thing is we can get better.
“We want to be a formidable defensive unit because that will win you test matches. We work incredibly hard and we want to be tough to beat.
“We want to be in positions to make dominant collisions, to get some turnovers and play on the back of it, so we want to work incredibly hard for each other.
“That will then give us an opportunity to then play with ball in hand, which, for the likes of myself and the rest of the back three, that’s when we come alive.
Josh Adams looks to have already staked a claim for a place in the test team for the tourists’ first game against South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday, July 24, after scoring four tries, and Hogg, captaining a Lions side for the first time, also strengthened his case for selection.
After being dropped by his club side, Exeter Chiefs, for their recent English Premiership semi-final and final but retained as a replacement, rendering him unavailable for the Lions’ game against Japan, he relished the opportunity to demonstrate his leadership credentials.
“It was a terrific experience. I absolutely loved the 80 minutes on the field and it's a really, really exciting time to be a part of this team,” he said.
Hogg and fellow ex-Hawick player Rory Sutherland have been named as replacements for the Lions’ game against Cell C Sharks on Wednesday, July 7, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg as head coach Warren Gatland looks to rotate his squad ahead of the test series.
“We're not really trying to predict what a test side looks like at the moment,” said Gatland.
“We’re trying to let that unfold and see how the players keep performing and playing and seeing how the combinations work, then we’ll start looking at our options.
“We definitely don't want to pigeon-hole anyone. We're keeping an open mind about how we play and how we keep improving.”
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