Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick has sent a warning to the British & Irish Lions of the physical threat of the Springboks for their upcoming series.
Lions coach Warren Gatland is set to name his 36-man squad for the tour of South Africa on Thursday afternoon and, as usual, speculation is rife with who could be included and left out.
The Springboks have not played together as a team since the 2019 World Cup final in Japan but, according to Fitzpatrick, this won’t change their approach in the series.
When the Lions last toured South Africa in 2009, they were famously dominated in the scrums by Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, while the Springboks took a similarly physical approach in their World Cup final win over England.
‘The big negative for the Springboks at the moment is that they haven’t played a Test since 2019,’ Fitzpatrick told the Daily Mail. ‘They will be underdone but you could say the same for the Lions, they haven’t played for four years either.
‘What they [South Africa] brought to the World Cup was real size. Big men. And that’s the whole squad, not just the starting 15. We saw in the final, when they emptied the bench out: bigger men, bigger players.
‘So that will be something the Lions will have to look at in terms of bulk, he [Gatland] is going to need big men himself and they have big men in the UK and Ireland. So, I don’t see it as a major issue, but it’s whether the Lions can compete for 80 minutes with the pounding that they are going to take.
‘That’s the Springboks’ biggest threat – the size and volume they can keep throwing at you.’
Fitzpatrick played 92 Tests for New Zealand and captained the All Blacks to a series victory over the Lions in 1993.
He also weighed in on the Lions captaincy debate, backing Alun Wyn Jones ahead of Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, who have also been linked to the role.
‘He has shown some great form during the Six Nations to win it. Albeit, one minute away from winning a Grand Slam. But to win the Championship, a lot had to do with his leadership in very trying situations,’ he explained.