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Lions watch - South Africa

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Old Man
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Post by RDW Tue 6 Apr - 3:00

Understandably there has been a lot of chat about the Lions squad selection, but I thought I’d set up a thread to focus in South Africa, particularly what kind of state they’re likely to be in come the tour.

It’s fair to say SA rugby have been disrupted by Covid far more than any other Tier 1 nation. As we know they haven’t played a single game since the world cup, even turning down the chance to play in the Rugby Championship last year citing a lack of preparation time and player fitness/welfare (which was controversial as it was something that Argentina were facing as well, and did well out of it). We have no way of knowing what would have happened had they played in the tournament, but it does suggest they had preferred not play at all than turn up and not be competitive. I’m sure there were financial issues too as it would have been a huge undertaking to get them out to Aus.

The players did eventually get some gametime with their clubs in SA from the end of last year but I have no idea how intense or high quality these games were given they were essentially classed as pre-season warmups, certainly compared to the battle hardened Lions players who have just come off a brutal 6N as well as league and European campaigns. The Rainbow Cup is due to start shortly but still has the hurdle to cross of how to achieve SA teams playing Europeans ones. Obviously SA have players playing in Europe as well.

I’ve not seen any more recent chat about what SA’s plans are leading up to the Series, and I’m not sure if anything has been confirmed. They desperately need some warmup tests but how easy is that going to be achieved if there are still doubts on whether the Lions will make it to SA at all, never mind any other nation? Which nations will be happy to travel to South Africa for a warmup? Rugby moves on fast and the type of games we saw in the WC are a thing of the past in international rugby now.

Ultimately we could end up with a very undercooked SA team.

Obviously there are bigger things in life and the Covid impact on South Africa has been horrendous, which is had huge ramifications for the national team and the SARU’s ability to get their players playing rugby.

It would be good to hear an South African perspective on all this, especially what the latest rumours are in terms of how SA are going to be preparing for the tour.

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Post by Old Man Tue 6 Apr - 5:59

Best is to start with what Jacques Nienaber had to say in an interview this weekend.

During the last year they were mostly doing online performance management, fitness, skills, discussing referee trends etc.

Will start with alignment camps. During the Currie Cupthere was a lot of stop start rugby due to not playing much rugby, Super Rugby and Currie Cup was very much defence orientated. Ball in play time was low.

Adjustments was made to speed up play in the preparation cup, more player rotation, mixing experience and youth, rugby style improved according to him.

As far as the mainstream players, Handre Pollard is doing well, RG Snyman is on target, Lood de Jager not yet known, players abroad looking good.

There is room for improvement, especially technical, some aligning on personal performances.

Game plan, he won’t admit anything.

Looking forward to Rainbow Cup.

The SA teams are mostly pride vs pride, the European teams more test match like, set piece orientated, skill sets are well developed, the styles of play will be interesting and also adapting to European referees.

The reason why they didn’t go to the Rugby Championship. The reason they wanted 400 minutes was due to players not having any exposure to high performance environment due to covid. Our players had no access to Gyms, doctors, Physios, nutritionists.

There was a big strength deficit in the players.

Currently players have enough minutes, Japanese players almost there.

Nothing else yet on preparation.

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Post by Old Man Tue 6 Apr - 6:10

From a personal perspective the local games weren’t confidence inspiring, Currie Cup and Super Rugby unlocked was disappointing, I think our local rugby is struggling due to so many players overseas.

You cannot produce top quality rugby when your top 50-100 players aren’t playing in your domestic comps, regardless of depth of player talent.

It is the intellectual property and experience that isn’t shared with the younger players.

However having said that, there are a few new players that might get a call up during the Lions tour that could makean impact.

Wandisile Similane - Excellent young midfielder with all the necessary skills.
Aphelele Fassi - Fullback

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Post by RDW Tue 6 Apr - 6:26

Good to get your insight.

So it sounds like the players should be fit and match sharp by the time the Lions come, but the big missing piece of the jigsaw is warmup tests as a Springbok team. I'm sure the SARU will be doing all they can to make sure the first test for SA isn't against the Lions. I wonder if Japan would travel to SA after they play the Lions in Murrayfield?

Another thing I'm interested to hear is the reaction in South Africa of the decision to forge ahead with the tour in SA, at the same time period originally planned. Do you think there's a good chance this will be possible, or is it a huge risk to take?

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Post by Old Man Tue 6 Apr - 6:29

There was a rumour the warm up test would be versus the USA, if I recall correctly it would take place in the UK, but Nienaber didn’t confirm this.

There is also an argument that the stadiums could be filled by 50%, but I think they are in talks with government about that.

Biggest issue in my view is whether Nienaber will have enough time for his squad to gel as a unit.

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Post by RDW Tue 6 Apr - 6:37

I can't see USA being much of a warmup test for the Boks - they'd probably have a sterner workout playing probables v possibles!

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Post by Old Man Tue 6 Apr - 7:19

Most likely yes.

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Post by RDW Wed 7 Apr - 4:59

https://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-union/56650758

A bit more chat about SA's prep, but still no mention of games.

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Post by FerN Thu 8 Apr - 5:43

I don't really feel all that confident, I was already nervous before Covid. The local rugby that I watched was not very convincing. I am glad that Old Man thinks the overseas Boks are looking good though.

Also the Home Nations also have a weird feeling to them. I don't know if England ending 5 is because everyone else is so strong or if England just dropped the ball a bit.

So I can see all our franchises losing. If they whitewash the Springboks are they going to call these Lions the Invincible's too?

I really hope Rassie and Jacques can pull a rabbit out of a hat here.

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Post by RDW Thu 8 Apr - 5:46

Could someone more in the know than me do a stab at a potential SA Test team, and highlight which players are based in SA and which are foreign based? I'd be interested to see what the split is.

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Post by Old Man Thu 8 Apr - 6:25

Just taking a guess who will be in contention.

Props
Trevor Nyakane (SA)
Frans Malherbe (SA)
Steven Kitshoff (SA)
Vincent Koch (UK)
Ox Nche (SA)
Qcoboko (SA)

Hookers
Bongi Mbonambi (SA)
Malcolm Marx (Japan)

Locks
Eben Etzebeth (France)
Lood de Jager (UK) Possibly injured
Franco Mostert (Japan)
RG Snyman (UK) still recovering from Injury
Jason Jenkins (Japan)

Backrow
Siya Kolisi (SA)
Marcell Coetzee (Back in SA now)
Duane Vermeulen (SA)
Pieter Steph du Toit ( SA for now) Recovering from injury

Halfback
Faf de Klerk (UK)
Herschel Jantjies (SA)
Jaco Reinach (France)

Flyhalf
Handre Pollard (Fance) injured
Elton Jantjies (SA)

Midfield
Lukhanyo Am (SA)
De Allende (UK)
Andre Esterhuizen (UK)
Wandile Simelane (SA)

Wings
Kolbe (France)
Mapimpi (Japan)
Nkosi (SA)

Fullback
Le Roux (Japan
Fassi (SA)
Gelant (SA)

Utility
Frans Steyn (SA)



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Post by RDW Thu 8 Apr - 6:39

It's going to be a fascinating series as SA are going to pretty much be in the same boat as the Lions - having to bring together a diverse group of players from multiple countries, all with very little preparation time together!

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Post by Old Man Thu 8 Apr - 6:53

Yep, very challenging indeed

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Post by FerN Thu 8 Apr - 6:54

I was busy getting a list together but Old Man's is much more complete than mine.

Yes it will be fascinating. Traditionally our provinces played very differently, so bringing them together should be the same challenge as what the other coaches had. We can still pull this off, but I do feel that things are a bit in the Lions favour this time round. Luckily we have 2 highveld games and the franchises are at sea level if it goes ahead like that.

I always get the feeling that when the B&I Lions play, the players lift themselves to play at or near their best on both sides of the field.

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Post by RDW Thu 8 Apr - 6:58

It's good to have you back on board btw FerN - will be great to have input from you and Old Man on the series going forwards OK

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Post by FerN Thu 8 Apr - 8:20

RDW wrote:It's good to have you back on board btw FerN - will be great to have input from you and Old Man on the series going forwards OK

Thanks RDW, it is good to be back. The gap caused by the pandemic had me stop watching. The only reason I started half watching is the upcoming Lions tour and some Youtube videos so I do feel a bit out of the loop at the moment.

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Post by George Carlin Sun 11 Apr - 20:56

Springboks side is pretty scary regardless of whom you pick.

Check this out, for example:
01 Steven Kitshoff
02 Malcom Marx
03 Frans Malherbe
04 Eben Etzebeth
05 Lood de Jager
06 Siya Kolisi
07 Pieter-Steph du Toit
08 Kwagga Smith

09 Faf de Klerk
10 Handre Pollard
11 Makazole Mapimpi
12 Damian de Allende
13 Lukhanyo Am
14 Cheslin Kolbe
15 Willie le Roux

Not sure where the weaknesses are there.
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Post by Brendan Sat 17 Apr - 1:13

SA are going to be a Phyiscal team and Gats can't just Bully them like he did Australia in 2013. I don't know if he can get a plan that can be successful in such a short time that would be required. Regardless of how long it has been once they are all back in training it will be like riding a bicycle.

The Lions will be a formidable side to have to face but the Boks do the basics well which will give them a great platform.  Their scrum will be solid as will their lineout.  While the Franchises aren't what they were they will still be a handful for the Lions.

There may be alot more injuries to both sides and it is unclear how replacements will work with bubbles and covid restrictions.  That will be more intriguing as to how and when.

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Post by George Carlin Tue 20 Apr - 8:18

Yes, the key thing will be winning the first test.

SA's biggest problem is that they won't have played test rugby in about a year, save for one introductory test against the USA.
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Post by Sharkey06 Thu 22 Apr - 17:38

I think we can expect very simple, very direct, route one rugby from South Africa in the first test.  This is the easiest style to play with little game time under their belts.  It probably also suits their player pool.  This is one of the great things about rugby - the different styles that teams have and how they adapt to counter the opposition. Do the Lions try to run South Africa into submission (unlikely with Gatland in charge), or try and take them head on in their areas of strength?

I can't see either side winning this 3 -0.

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