Warren Gatland believes the Springboks will have a strong World Cup campaign and emerge as a force to be reckoned with during the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2021.
Gatland has coached Wales to five wins out of their last six encounters against the Springboks, and he is set to be in charge of the British & Irish Lions squad that will tour South Africa in two years’ time following his reappointment as head coach of the elite team.
The Springboks have enjoyed mixed fortunes in recent years, but have made massive strides since the start of coach Rassie Erasmus’ tenure, prompting the highly esteemed Gatland to admit that South Africa’s chances of World Cup success are steadily increasing.
‘I think we have had some really tight games between Wales and South Africa in recent years. We have been lucky enough to have come out on the right side of the ledger. But Rassie Erasmus has done a good job with South Africa so far. I think they are going to continue to improve. They will have a really good World Cup,’ he said.
The Lions’ last series defeat came against the Springboks in 2009, when a last-gasp penalty by Morné Steyn in the second Test handed South African an unassailable 2-0 series lead. Since then the Lions have chalked up a 2-1 series win against the Wallabies in 2013 and a 1-1 series draw against the All Blacks in 2017, with Gatlant in charge of both tours of the Antipodes.
But the 55-year-old admits that touring South Africa, and indeed playing the Springboks, come with different challenges than their previous excursions.
‘From a rugby perspective, I know how tough it is to tour South Africa, having been involved in playing for Waikato and touring there with Ireland and Wales,’ Gatland explained.
‘I appreciate that there are challenges with the retention of players, but with the history and high level at schoolboy rugby, university and Super Rugby, it is going to be tough for us. In two years’ time they could be a force to be reckoned with, and I am really looking forward to that challenge.’