EVEN allowing for the modest nature of the opposition, an eight-try victory must go down as a highly satisfactory start to the British & Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa. As far as captain Stuart Hogg was concerned, however, the emphasis after the game had to be on the need to keep improving over the coming weeks.

There will, after all, be tougher teams than the Sigma Lions for the tourists to meet. And, while the 56-14 win at Ellis Park by and large showcased both the attacking sharpness and the defensive solidity of Hogg’s side, there were also flaws which need to be ironed out well before the three-Test series against the Springboks.

“It’s far from the finished article,” the Scottish full-back said. “We’ll continue to work, we’ll continue to learn and we’ll continue to get better. For me, the exciting thing for us is that we can get better individually and collectively.

“It was a terrific experience,” he continued, reflecting on his first experience as captain of Warren Gatland’s squad. “I absolutely loved the 80 minutes on the field.

“At times we went to dark places. We made ourselves uncomfortable in the way that we were defending.

“We want to be a formidable defensive unit. That will win you Test matches. We work incredibly hard on it. We want to be tough to beat, we want to be in positions to make dominant collisions, to get some turnovers, and play off the back of it.”

While advocating caution in general, Hogg was willing to be effusive in his praise of fellow-Scot Hamish Watson, who was named man of the match after a typically unrelenting performance.

“He was brilliant,” the captain said of the back-row forward. “It is like somebody winds him up before the game and just lets him go and he runs a million miles an hour and makes 20 million tackles.

“Like the rest of the forward pack we want these boys working really hard and really putting their bodies on the line. That is all we can ask.”

Watson agreed with his skipper’s verdict on the game, but also stressed the positive aspects of a match that was more physically demanding than the 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield had been last week.

“It was awesome for me to get my first appearance for the Lions and it was a good win for the team,” said the Edinburgh forward, who missed out on that match at his home stadium after being concussed in training during the week before it. “A lot to work on, but I thought the team are definitely heading in the right direction with four warm-up games to go.

“We got tested in different ways today compared to Japan. I thought our defence in our own 22, especially in the first half, was really good, and that stands us in good stead going forward as well.” 

Head coach Gatland also saw the game as a step in the right direction, although he too was keen to talk about the need for hard work over the coming weeks.

“You can’t complain,” he said. “The positive thing is there’s still lots of things to work on. We’ve been getting better and better as a squad the more time we’re spending together.

“We put down a bit of a marker, but we know as a group that we won’t be 100 per cent satisfied. There’s still lots of improvements, but we feel we can get there and make lots of improvements.

“I thought the guy on the left wing did okay today,” he added, referring to Wales’ Josh Adams, who scored four tries.

“I’m pleased with the bench. I thought the bench brought some energy. I was just really pleased with the energy out there and the enthusiasm. I thought it was a really positive start.”