BRITISH and Irish Lions' coach Ian McGeechan has taken heart from the fact that Saturday's 26-24 win over Free State Cheetahs was the first start on tour for many of his players.
He said after their hard-fought win in Bloemfontein on Saturday: "We know the games are going to get progressively tougher but we wanted every player to have a start so it's a good challenge."
Flyhalf James Hook inspired the British and Irish Lions to victory on the day, their third in their South African tour.
Tries by flank Stephen Ferris and centre Keith Earls sent the Lions into a 20-0 lead midway through the first half but the Cheetahs regrouped and posed a much stiffer challenge for the rest of the match.
Hook kicked four penalties and two conversions for a 100percent record in front of the poles.
The Cheetahs finally got on the scoreboard in the 26th minute with a try by wing Danwel Demas shortly after Ferris was yellow-carded for killing the ball in ruck.
Prop Wian du Preez crashed over in the 33rd minute as the Super 14 side went into the break 23-14 down.
Cheetahs flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked a penalty in the 42nd minute but Hook put the Lions back into a nine-point lead with a penalty in the 52nd minute.
The Cheetahs made the visitors, who beat Gauteng Lions 74-10 on Wednesday, sweat for victory.
The Lions dominated possession but many of their attacking efforts went astray as Cheetah's flank Heinrich Brussow dominated the breakdowns.
The Cheetahs gave the Lions a rugged welcome as the first scrum of the match collapsed and descended into a fist-fight in the sixth minute. Hook meted out punishment with a penalty.
Cheetahs replied by stealing a Lions lineout and creating an overlap for Demas to score their opening try.
Lions wing Shane Williams saw his pass grabbed by Corne Uys in the 75th minute for the final try. - Reuters