Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus have revealed what they expect from Warren Gatland’s Lions squad.
As the buildup to the Lions series intensifies, the Bok coaches are expecting Warren Gatland’s men to have a few tricks up their sleeve when they face the Springboks in July.
Speaking to the media, Erasmus mused over some of Gatland’s selections both for his playing and coaching squad.
‘All those coaches, with the exception of Gregor Townsend who’s the attack coach, have worked with Gatland before,’ he said. ‘The players are selected pretty evenly from each country. But there are more Scottish backs and more English and Welsh forwards.
‘So, if there are mostly Scottish backs and a Scottish attack coach then that must tell you something.’
Erasmus was likely alluding to Scotland having their best Six Nations campaign in decades earlier this year, and that Townsend has been credited with developing the side into a formidable attacking force.
It’s not surprising to see key danger men like Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe and Finn Russell included in the Lions squad. Their selection suggests that the Lions may play more expansively than many first predicted.
Erasmus believes that Gatland’s picks in the forwards also lends credence to this theory.
‘Their pack is full of quick players. Their loose forwards are busy – you look at a guy like Courtney Lawes for example – and their props are mobile around the park.
‘It [the Lions series] won’t be like the Wales Test match [the World Cup semi-final] where whichever team ground it out won. That’s our thinking.’
Even if the Lions do look to up the tempo, Nienaber feels that the Springboks will be well prepared to adapt and counter. This is in no small part owing to the collective work everyone in SA Rugby has been doing.
‘It really is about “Stronger Together”. There has been buy-in from everyone: franchise players, coaches and referees, to get the ball-in-play time up. That’s why we’ve seen the shot clocks and things like that.
‘At the time of the Preparation Series we were concerned our ball-in-play time was below that of, say, the Premiership or the PRO14, but since the Rainbow Cup we feel there is now parity.’