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The British & Irish Lions will meet an exceptional South African side in 2021

July 1st, 2020Rugby

As the 2021 tour rolls around and the Lions return to South Africa they must be prepared for an onslaught of fiercely competitive, high octane rugby from a Springbok team in outstanding shape, thanks to the legacy of Rassie Erasmus.

 That meticulous Erasmus transformation of a side that had hit such a lean spell, into world champions, was nothing short of a masterpiece. All the more so, given that South Africa were at an all-time low seventh in the World Rankings in 2017, as a result of a series of shock defeats, among them Italy and Argentina, then that 57-0 rout down in Albany at the hands of their rampant New Zealand hosts.

The Rassie-rebuild that saw an unrelenting new-look Boks prise the World Cup Final away from All Blacks-conquering England in Japan, and the structures that underpinned that resounding 32 -12 victory, were the work of a perfectionist. That finely tuned intelligence for the game remains fully accessible in his role as SA Director of Rugby and he has ensured continuity of excellence by appointing his assistant from last year’s triumph, Jacques Nienhaber as his head coach successor as head coach.

Erasmus - emergence of a super-coach

History tells us much about the development of Erasmus’ national head coaching credentials along with his undoubted destiny to become South Africa’s first director of rugby.

Rassie was a 22-year-old flanker playing for Free State in 1995, yet he would go on to coach this same team to their first Currie Cup title since 1976, just 10 years later. Remarkably having retired as a player in 2003, success came in only his second season as a coach and a first attempt to win the Currie Cup. Given such a golden start to the Erasmus coaching career, it really was only a matter of time before he would progress to coaching the Boks.

Aside from establishing the legacy of a happy, confident high achieving team, it was also Rassie’s immense commitment to transforming the Springbok side in terms of integration and inclusion that had such a major impact. Heyneke Meyer’s 2015 World Cup team, defeated in the semi-final by the All Blacks, started with just three black players with a further team member on the substitutes’ bench. In last year’s final, Rassie had doubled that contingent on both pitch and bench, including, of course, South Africa’s first black captain, Siya Kolisi. 

There are a number of the current World Cup squad who may contemplate retirement after securing global rugby’s greatest prize, but the vast majority of the players are still young enough to rise to the challenge in four years time. Naturally, the current squad will form the nucleus of the team to face the British and Irish Lions tourists next year and a squad for the next World Cup must be built from thereon in.

 

However, the most fervent wish of every Springbok fan you speak to is that the current coaching team, led by a hands-on Erasmus remains in situ.

 

South Africa played basic, but totally effective rugby to reach the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. However, pundits believe the team has the scope and talent to get a whole lot better, only firing at 80 percent of their true potential. That is undoubtedly an appetising prospect which makes for a mesmerising Lions contest in prospect and a most encouraging aura around the future of this Springboks team.

On that note, the demand for British & Irish Lions tour match tickets and travel packages is likely to be huge, so be sure to register your interest and take advantage of Expat Sport’s expertise.

Springbok’s team talk

Pundits and fans alike believe that Siya Kolisi should lead the Springboks against the British & Irish Lions in 2021, as well as fronting South Africa’s defence of the Rugby World Cup in France in 2023.

 

There is a debate over retiring players in that it is not always wise to lose too many experienced veterans at one time, without a pipeline of relatively tried and tested youngsters ready to step up. Continuity of coaching and selection resources too has been critical to World Cup success.

 

By promoting assistant coach Jacques Nienhaber to head coach, and retaining World Cup-winning coach and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus in charge of strategy and selections, SA Rugby have already gone down the continuity path that served England and the All Blacks so well, resulting in three World Cup titles between them.

 

South African players most likely to make the squad to face the British & Irish Lions in 2021 besides captain Kolisi, include:

 

Backs:

Damian Willemse a fly-half also able to play full back - age 22. Herschel Jerome Jantjies scrum-half - aged 24 and Handré Pollard - age 26 who plays fly-half/inside-centre and is a specialist kicker. Lukhanyo Am centre – age 26. The mercurial Faf de Klerk a scrum-half - age 28. Herschel Jantjies a scrum-half – age 24. Jesse Kriel - the ultimate utility back who can play centre/wing or full-back - age 26. Makazole Mapimpi winger - age 29; who scored a late try against England in the final. Cheslin Kolbe a winger/fullback - age 26, who also scored late in the RWC final. Willie le Roux a full-back/winger – age 30.

 

Forwards:

Duane Vermeulen, at 33 still more than ready for the Lions, plays at No. 8. Pieter Stephanus du Toit a lock/flanker - age 27. Francois Louw a flanker – age 35. Francois Mostert a lock/flanker – age 29. Lood de Jagger lock - age 27. Eben Etzebeth lock - age 28. R.G Snyman lock – age 25. Jozua Francois Malherbe tighthead prop - age 29. Vincent Koch tighthead prop – age 30. Bongi Mbonambi - age 29 hooker. Malcolm Marx - age 25 hooker. Tendai Mtawarira a loosehead prop – age 34. Steven Kitshoff loosehead prop - age 28.

 

The lure of the Lions

 

It is a fact of life that all international rugby players from the southern hemisphere nations are keen to test themselves against the Lions.

 

World Cup winning (1995) former Springbok fly-half Joel Stransky, who played alongside many former British & Irish Lions at Leicester Tigers including 1997 Lions captain Martin Johnson, describes the opposition:

 

“The Lions are steeped in tradition, culture, respect and absolute loyalty to that magnificent red jersey – it can never be taken for granted or underestimated. 

 

Next year will be just magnificent – they will come here with a very strong squad and thousands and thousands of supporters will make the journey to enjoy our country and to be part of this great tour.”

You could be among those supporters, so don’t forget to ensure those Lions tickets and tour packages through Expat Sport and head down to South Africa for the ultimate rugby tour. It will seem a very short year to go as the excitement builds.


Official Packages will go on sale on Wednesday 2 September.