Warren Gatland says the decision to withdraw the Boks from the Rugby Championship could leave them ‘underdone’ for the incoming British & Irish Lions tour next year.
SA Rugby recently decided against having the Springboks participate in this year’s revised Rugby Championship, which will be held in Australia, and Gatland believes it is a risky call.
‘It could end up being 20 months between their last game and the first [Lions] Test,’ Gatland told the BBC.
‘So, they may be underdone, and it will be disappointing from my perspective because I won’t get a chance maybe to see them play.’
Gatland will lead the Lions for a third time on their tour of South Africa. In a condensed tour, starting on 3 July 2021, the Lions will play three Tests against the Springboks as part of an eight-match schedule.
The 57-year-old New Zealander sympathised with South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus.
‘Those are the kind of the times we are in at the moment. I can understand from Rassie’s point of view, they hadn’t had a lot of domestic rugby, so they felt they were going down to Australia being undercooked and understandably not wanting to expose themselves.
‘They talked about an injury risk, I am not too sure that was the case, but that’s their prerogative and they felt they needed more rugby.
‘But what they are going to do – internally or externally – ahead of the Lions, I am not too sure, so it is a bit of a wait and see.’
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