The first Test is scheduled a year from today in Johannesburg and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, speaking on the SA Rugby Podcast, said he is expecting more of the same from Gatland and his touring team when they arrive in South Africa in 2021.
It will be Nienaber’s second encounter with the British & Irish Lions after he was involved with DHL Western Province in 2009. The tourists won a tough tussle in a torrential rain by 26-23 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town.
Four years later, Gatland’s Lions beat the Wallabies by 2-1, winning the final Test by 41-16 – the most points ever scored in a Test by the touring team from Europe and their biggest victory since a 31-0 drubbing of Australia in 1966.
In 2017, Gatland led a strong squad to New Zealand, where they drew the Test series after the final encounter ended in a 15-15 stalemate.
“Warren Gatland’s coaching ability and experience, and the teams he assembled on their two previous tours to Australia and New Zealand, speaks for itself,” said Nienaber.
“The series victory in Australia was their first in 16 years, since they beat the Boks in 1997, and we know how tough it is to get a win or a draw in New Zealand.
“Warren and his coaching staff are very experienced in the Lions set-up, what is needed to fuse players from four teams and four different styles of play, and what buttons to press to unlock the emotions, skill sets and grunt from various countries.
“They will certainly have all their ducks in a row and it will be a massive challenge for us.”
One area of concern for Nienaber, is that the Springboks will not know exactly what to expect from the British & Irish Lions, but they are taking notes from an unlikely source – Hamilton in New Zealand.
“The negative for us, is that we don’t know what type of playing style they will bring to South Africa,” said Nienaber.
“We’re watching Warren with the Chiefs at the moment, to see what direction they are taking as he might bring some of that over to SA next year. There certainly is enough intrigue and story lines involved that makes for one massive clash next year.”