Nienaber: Lions will have their ducks in a row

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber expects the coaching continuity and experience of Warren Gatland to pose a massive challenge during next year’s British & Irish Lions tour.

The first Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions is scheduled to take place exactly a year from today in Johannesburg.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, speaking on the SA Rugby Podcast, said he is expecting more of the same from Gatland and his touring team when they arrive in South Africa in 2021.

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It will be Nienaber’s second encounter with the British & Irish Lions after he was involved with Western Province in 2009. The tourists won a tough tussle in torrential rain 26-23 at Newlands in Cape Town.

Gatland has not lost a series since being appointed as Lions head coach in 2012. The New Zealander was involved in the 2009 Tour as a forwards coach and has since coached the invitational team to a 2-1 series win against Australia – which included a massive 41-16 victory in the final Test – as well as a 1-1 series draw against the All Blacks after the final encounter ended in a 15-15 stalemate.

‘Warren Gatland’s coaching ability and experience, and the teams he assembled on their two previous tours to Australia and New Zealand, speaks for itself,’ Nienaber said.

‘The series victory in Australia was their first in 16 years, since they beat the Boks in 1997, and we know how tough it is to get a win or a draw in New Zealand.

‘Warren and his coaching staff are very experienced in the Lions set-up, what is needed to fuse players from four teams and four different styles of play, and what buttons to press to unlock the emotions, skill sets and grunt from various countries.

‘They will certainly have all their ducks in a row and it will be a massive challenge for us.’

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Gatland returned to New Zealand after finishing his 13-year tenure as Wales coach last year and is busy coaching the Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

A concern for Nienaber is that he does not know what to expect from the Lions, but the Springbok coach says he is taking note from what Gatland is doing with the Chiefs.

‘The negative for us, is that we don’t know what type of playing style they will bring to South Africa,’ Nienaber admitted.

‘We’re watching Warren with the Chiefs at the moment, to see what direction they are taking as he might bring some of that over to SA next year. There certainly is enough intrigue and story lines involved that makes for one massive clash next year.’

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Photo: Andrew Cornaga /