World Cup-winner Schalk Brits believes Warren Gatland’s exclusion of former Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot from his British & Irish Lions coaching team is a missed opportunity.
Proudfoot, who now coaches England, was instrumental in helping lead the Boks to World Cup glory in 2019. He was also the only member of the South African coaching staff who had been with the Bok side since 2016.
Proudfoot was the chief architect of South Africa’s demolition job on the English pack in the Rugby World Cup final. This performance so impressed Eddie Jones that he headhunted Proudfoot to replace the outgoing Steve Borthwick as England forwards coach.
England’s fifth-place finish in this year’s iteration of the Six Nations may have been what has cost Proudfoot a spot in the Lions coaching set-up as Gatland opted for former Wales international Robin McBryde to be his forwards coach.
Though Gatland has not closed the door on bringing in extra coaching IQ in the future, the feeling is that if anyone were to be brought on board, it would be the Crusaders’ Scott ‘Razor’ Robinson.
Speaking to Rugby Pass, former Springbok hooker Schalk Brits felt Gatland missed a trick, though. He argues that the inside knowledge Proudfoot has of the Springboks and their players could have been invaluable to the Lions coaches.
‘It is a missed opportunity for the Lions by not giving him [Proudfoot] an assistant coach role for the tour because of his experience with the Boks. We are happy about that and he is still very highly regarded in South African rugby.’
Brits also expressed some concern about the preparedness of the Springboks going into the B&I Lions series having not played international rugby for such a long time.
‘You need a couple of warm-up Test matches to see where you are, but now we are going in against one of the top teams in the game who will be hungry to come to South Africa and give the world champions a beating.
‘Most of our key guys are in Europe and the big success of our 2019 World Cup win was the alignment camps that happened well before the tournament and for the first time ever we had lots of time together. Now, we don’t have that time which means there is a bit of the unknown.’
Brits was, however, optimistic about the impact some of South Africa’s overseas-based players would have.
‘Our European-based players do help us because it is great to have diverse experiences and you need Faf de Klerk playing at Sale Sharks and Handre Pollard with Montpellier while Jesse Kriel is in Japan.’
Preparations for the Lions series are getting under way as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber last week led a number of alignment camps which he described as a ‘wake-up call’ for South Africa’s players.