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What Erasmus reckons Lions boss Warren Gatland will make of the Springboks squad

By Liam Heagney

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Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus reckons Lions boss Warren Gatland won’t be really nervous over the 46-strong South African squad unveiled on Saturday to face the tourists in July. Erasmus suggested that his rival had something up his sleeve eight days earlier when asked for his thoughts on the 37-strong squad chosen by the Lions.


“I think he has got something up his sleeve,” said Erasmus on May 28. “I don’t think we’re going to see this battle of attrition, grinding it out like the semi-final in the World Cup (against Wales)… we will definitely see a bit of change in his game plan but he might be just throwing us some bait, I’m not sure.”

Now Erasmus and Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber have shown their hand, revealing a selection which they suggest took 18 months of weekly revising to whittle down from an initial number of 64 players.

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RugbyPass is sharing unique stories from iconic British and Irish Lions tours to South Africa in proud partnership with The Famous Grouse, the Spirit of Rugby

Asked by RugbyPass what Gatland might now make of the eventual 46-strong Springboks squad, a selection that includes eight uncapped players, Erasmus said: ‘If he picked a different squad we might have made two or three changes, (but) we wouldn’t have made wholesale changes.

“If you look at our squad you will see the bulk of the 30 players from the World Cup that are still available. But then I think you will see we do have a Yaw Penxe. Cheslin (Kolbe) and (Makazole) Mapimpi are fit but we have got a (Aphelele) Fassi that falls in there. We have got a Penxe, we have got Rosko Specman, who has got X-factor.

“You have got (Wandisile) Simelane there, you’ve got Jesse (Kriel) who can play centre and wing, you have got Frans Steyn who can play 10, 15 and 12. You have got (Handre) Pollard who can play 12, you have got Damian (de Allende) who can play 12. You have got (Sanele) Nohamba that is more a Herschel (Jantjies) like type substitution. I wouldn’t say he can’t play tactical but he is a more instinctive player. We have got an explosive Jasper Wiese in the mix, we have got some strong du Preez brothers in the mix.


“I think he [Gatland] would know the players, his coaching staff would know the players. I don’t think it [the message that] will be sent out that this is a squad that is awesome and we have to be really nervous about it because they have got a squad that is really competitive.

“The only thing that I meant last time when I spoke was they had picked eight players from Scotland and five of them are backs and Gregor (Townsend) is a backline, attacking coach and he is all-out attack. When you play Scotland it is like the French of old. That is the only thing I mean with that. So I think the two squads, if you compare them with grunt and grit and guts and soft touches and handling and vision, it is a quite nice comparison.”

While the Lions squad essentially only took a few weeks to nail down, Gatland announcing his assistant coaches on April 13 and naming his 37 players 23 days later on May 6, Erasmus added the Springboks took a lot longer to decide. “We have been doing this every week because we haven’t played for 18 months. We call it the road map on every single player. There were 64 in the beginning and we did a weekly road map. It has been 18 months of weekly analysing, sending clips through and making a document that a player would receive.”


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