The pace of hobbit-sized Lions strikers puts South Africa on the alert for series British and Irish Lions
The Springbok coaches believe the British and Irish Lions will have a significant advantage over previous touring teams when they fly to South Africa next month. The Covid-influenced fixture list is designed to lessen the impact the height has on Warren Gatland’s plans, and the Boks are also wary of the hobbit-sized pacy strikers on the visiting team.
With South Africa not playing since winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2019, Boks rugby director Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber will announce an expanded squad of 45 players this coming Saturday, with a chance of crowds in stadiums, home advantage will be less of a factor than normal.
The hosts are particularly aware that the revised tour schedule, with the Games only taking place in Gauteng and Cape Town, minimizes the unfamiliar impact of the altitude on the Lions. The test series used to start and end in Johannesburg, now it starts in Cape Town, so tourists can prepare for sea level almost a fortnight in advance.
“It could be the first time height doesn’t matter,” said Erasmus, who made his 1997 Test debut as a player against the Lions. And now the SA ‘A’ team is playing in Cape Town, we don’t have a height advantage there. The first test is also in Cape Town and then we will all move to Joburg. The height is the same for everyone so I think this is an advantage that is gone in this particular series. “
However, Erasmus firmly believes that despite the chronic lack of test rugby lately, his team will be ready and claims that the teams will be “equal” in terms of their preparations. “The last time we played was in 2019, which is a younger time than them,” said Erasmus. “Yes, it’s a challenge and we haven’t played much together, but we’re almost in the same boat as the Lions who have to put four countries with four different schedules, styles and cultures together while we have one. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. “
The South African management is still not completely resigned to the fact that the stadiums are empty throughout the tour. “We still have hope and still ask, but it is a long way,” said Erasmus dismissed in certain sections of the local media. One observer has suggested that Lions tried to select “Hobbits as Giant Killers,” but Erasmus believes tiny hillbilly folks like Sam Simmonds and Hamish Watson could still have a huge impact. “It’s interesting how Warren picked this squad,” said Erasmus.
“In winter at high altitude, I think these boys – and Sam Simmonds especially – can move. I’m not familiar with the selection policy, but it seems like a good package to me. The Lions are so special. The World Cup is the climax, but heck, it’s damn close. “
In terms of South Africa’s picking, Leicester’s No. 8 Jasper Wiese impressed the national coaches, but the biggest problem for both sides will be the weeks ahead they will have to spend in a biosecure bubble, even if the hosts try to make it “so human “To make as possible.”
Infection rates are rising across the country, but Nienaber believes a third wave won’t necessarily ruin the tour: “I think we have a bit of herd immunity in South Africa because that’s how things are. The numbers are increasing, but right now we can go to the pubs and have a beer and laugh. “