British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland upbeat despite defeat by South Africa A

British & Irish Lions winger Louis Rees-Zammit takes on Marco van Staden in the tour match won by South Africa A at Cape Town Stadium. David Rogers/Getty Images

British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland believes he will get more out of Wednesday's 17-13 loss to a strong South Africa A team in Cape Town than the Springboks, saying he is "pretty positive" about the performance despite a first defeat on tour.

The home side led 17-3 at halftime but the Lions were on top for much of the second period, though they could not make their dominance at the scrums and hefty possession count with poor execution in the home side's 22.

"The players are pretty bullish in the changeroom, they are confident they can deal with whatever [South Africa] throw at us in the Test series," Gatland said.

"There are things we can easily fix in terms of what we gave to them to keep them in the game.

"The players are pretty positive about that performance and know we can still improve a lot. We would have got a lot more out of tonight than South Africa.

"The series is going to be a real arm wrestle, and that was as close to a Test match as you are going to get."

The home side's match-day squad featured 18 players who were part of the Springboks' Rugby World Cup winning team in 2019, and Gatland believes they have shown their hand in terms of the way they will play.

"They did a lot of things we expected from them: Box-kicking, they were aggressive and direct with their running," Gatland said.

"But we scrummed outstandingly well and defended their mauls particularly well.

"There are a few things we need to brush up on in terms of our accuracies and we had a couple of tries turned down. But those are things we can fix."

Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby's Director of Rugby who coached South Africa A, said he "expected our guys to run out of steam at the end after being stuck in our hotel rooms for a week and we only had two training sessions together as a team".

"The two yellow cards also certainly did not help our cause in that regard."

Erasmus was pleased that "a lot of players showed massive guts and endeavour" but said "that type of performance will not win us the Test series... there is a lot of technical stuff we need to get right before next weekend".

"That is exactly what we needed with a week to go before the first Test," Erasmus said.

"We wanted to win this match and I am sure they wanted to as well.

"Maybe those two tries not given would have counted for them, but it worked in our favour tonight."

- Information from Reuters was used in this report