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The Lions come to SA

Well, we are very excited about the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa! Claire is looking forward to seeing more fellow country men (and taking them on many wine tours of this gorgeous area!!) and I am hoping we beat them fair and square again of course. But what do you all think of the squad selections?

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has questioned whether the British and Irish Lions were right to pick a squad designed to match the world champions’ renowned forward strength.

The Lions travel to South Africa next month for a 10-match tour which features three Tests against the Springboks and on Tuesday coach Ian McGeechan named a 37-man squad which was, according to scrum guru Graham Rowntree, full of “beasts”.

But de Villiers, speaking to BBC Radio Five Live on Thursday, queried whether that was the right approach.

“If McGeechan wants to sit down and try to match the Springboks then I think that is the wrong thing,” said de Villiers, who succeeded 2007 World Cup winning boss Jake White as South Africa coach.

“If he wants to say ‘this is our strength, this is how we want to play the game, these are the people who can do the job for me’ then I can justify any selection he has made.”

The way in which several members of the Lions coaching staff spoke this week, suggested they were more focused on stopping South Africa than playing to their strengths.

It was a point not lost on de Villiers, who added: “I will not sit down and say ‘they are going to do this, so I should do this’.

I am more focused on what I want to do and I will find the talent and the players to do the job for us.”

De Villiers was also taken aback by McGeechan’s decision to leave out the captains of England, Scotland and Wales, with Steve Borthwick, Mike Blair and Ryan Jones respectively all omitted.

He was surprised too by McGeechan’s decision to elevate Paul O’Connell to the Lions captaincy, even though the squad contains centre Brian O’Driscoll who was the lock’s captain during Ireland’s Grand Slam triumph during this season’s Six Nations.

O’Driscoll was also chosen as Lions captain for the ill-fated New Zealand tour four years ago before injury cut short his trip.

“The one thing that surprised me was that the leaders of three home nations weren’t included in the squad – the guys that play under those guys respect them,” de Villiers said.

“Those are the guys that can stand up in meetings and try to resolve small niggles and things that can evolve on a long tour like this.

“Brian O’Driscoll was the captain of the last Lions team, even though he got injured, and he was the captain of the most successful Six Nations team this year. That’s a second big surprise.”

This though will be the fourth Lions tour where former Scotland centre McGeechan, who as a player starred for the 1974 Lions in their unbeaten tour of South Africa, has been the combined side’s head coach.

In 1997 he guided the Lions to a surprise 2-1 series win over the Springboks who, as they are now, were then the reigning world champions.

That series also saw McGeechan appoint as skipper another lock who was not then the captain of his country in England great Martin Johnson.

McGeechan, also speaking on Radio Five, said Thursday that forging a close bond off the field would be vital to the squad’s chances of success.

“They have to share each other’s company socially. They have to get to know each other because, in the end, if you’ve got a mate next you, you don’t want to let him down,” he said.

“That only happens when you know the player and you know the man and I think that’s what makes the Lions special.

“I personally went through that and I try hard to get it over to the players I coach. When you go through that, it’s with you forever.”

Sapa-AFP Rugbyweek.com

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