World Cup winner Schalk Brits believes Matt Proudfoot’s inside information on the Springboks could have a massive influence on the three-test series against the British and Irish Lions if he is drafted into the touring team’s coaching set-up next summer.
Proudfoot masterminded the Springboks forward effort as they battered England to defeat in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama and he is being lined up for a role with the most famous touring team in the sport. Proudfoot left the Springbok coaching team after the Cup final triumph and was immediately snapped up by England and has helped secure the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup titles under head coach Eddie Jones who wants his backroom staff on the Lions tour.
Former England forwards coach Steve Borthwick undertook that role with the Lions in New Zealand in 2017 and benefitted greatly from the experience and Jones is keen to repeat the exercise. Defence coach John Mitchell, who has coached two South African Super rugby teams and Proudfoot could join head coach Warren Gatland for the tour and Jones said: “There has been contact. Warren has gone round the unions and chatted to the CEOs about potential staff. We are open to any opportunity for our staff and coaches to grow. We will wait and see.”
The prospect of Proudfoot providing vital insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the current Springboks concerns Brits, but he admits it would be a unique opportunity for the former Springboks forwards coach to test himself against the country of his birth.
Brits said: “Personally, I would not like to see Matt as a Lions coach because I know he has the knowledge and know-how or our internal workings but, unselfishly, I hope he does get the job. There will not be that much of a change from the World Cup in the Springboks other than Matt going so having the internal knowledge of how we (the Springboks) operate, the players and systems will be a valuable asset to the Lions.
“The South African players who were in the Premiership got to know the England players before the World Cup in Japan and they gave us an advantage and with Matt having worked with the Springboks he has a lot of information on how we function and how we play strategically. We haven’t played any test rugby since the World Cup final and it is not ideal preparation for the Lions series.
“You can look at the current situation two ways; firstly you could say that we will be totally under prepared for the Lions series if there are no games although I expect the coaches to try and arrange some kind of game. Secondly, you could see it in relation to how Argentina played in the recent Rugby Championship where they only had one warm-up game and then were on fire in the competition. They exceeded all expectations.
“I am a glass half full guy and my hope is that if we don’t get matches then the Springboks will be fit and ready to rumble with the Lions. This is going to be an unbelievable series.”
During his playing career, Brits got the chance to play against South Africa for the Barbarians and Saracens and understands some of the pressure Proudfoot will have to deal with when facing his home country. “Yes, he will get a lot of grief from of a lot of us,” joked Brits. “Matt has always tried to be the very best coach he can be no matter what jersey we are talking about. You have to admire Matt for growing and if picked by the Lions he will never stand back from a challenge.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 11, 2020
“There is nothing more satisfying than one South African beating another and I have never understood why we love to stuff each other rather than stuff the opposition. It will be weird if there are a lot of South Africans in the Lions tour party. I played against South Africa and from my experience it was one of the hardest games I ever took part in.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now