British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland believes that the Springboks Rugby World Cup triumph will add value to his team’s tour in 2021.
Gatland will be getting a closer look at South African teams when he returns to coaching in New Zealand. The former Wales boss has taken up the position of Chiefs head coach, although he will step away from the role from June 2020 until after the Lions tour to SA is complete the following year.
The Kiwi mentor feels that England’s Rugby World Cup final loss may relieve the pressure on his side to win the series in South Africa.
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“If I was going to be selfish, I think for the Lions it puts an extra edge on it because now we’re going to South Africa to play against the world champions,” Gatland told the Telegraph.
“There would have been more expectation to pick those [England] players to be part of the Lions [starting side], and people saying, ‘If England can beat South Africa in the World Cup then the Lions should win that comfortably’.”
Chiefs experience handy for Gatland
Gatland has made no secret of the fact that he intends to use the Chiefs. In the 2020 programme the Chiefs visit South Africa in late March to face the Sharks at Kings Park and the Lions at Ellis Park.
“The great thing from a Super Rugby point of view is that we’re playing South African teams, so it will be two weeks in South Africa for matches,” Gatland said.
Gatland will then “look at the home unions on summer tours, look at who South Africa are playing, recce out there to look at hotels and training venues”.
“The time frame is perfect for me, coaching against those South African teams and tapping into some of the knowledge from a New Zealand perspective, with people who’ve been involved with the South African teams. It’s a great position to be in.”
Gatland intends to be better prepared than when he took the Lions to New Zealand which posed numerous staffing and logistical problems.
“A couple of people I spoke to last time indicated they were available, and when it came to it they weren’t. I don’t think that was a brilliant look from both sides, and I learnt from that,” he said.
“Part of what I need to do, before any announcements, is to get round to the four home unions and the chief executives – talk to the coaches about who is in their set-up; coaching and analysts and medical staff wouldn’t be available for the Lions, so we don’t make those approaches.
“Logistically, South Africa is easier because the time difference and not having to deal with the jet lag issue we had in New Zealand, where we arrived on the Wednesday and the first game was on the Saturday.
“There were a lot of people in New Zealand who were surprised the Lions agreed to that schedule because it was very, very tough. The cooperation between South Africa and the Lions has been excellent.”
The British and Irish Lions tour South Africa in 2021 for a three-match Test series, the tour will also include five additional matches.