British & Irish Lions

Nienaber responds to Lions squad announcement, expected to name Bok squad early June

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Jacques Nienaber. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images
Jacques Nienaber. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber expects British & Irish Lions counterpart Warren Gatland to do his homework ahead the three-Test series in South Africa later this year.

Nienaber, who is expected to announce his squad early next month, was reacting after Gatland named a 37-man Lions squad for the series on Wednesday.

"The announcement of the Lions squad was a marker in the ground in terms of international rugby coming back to South Africa, which is phenomenal for us, because we've been out of it for a while," Nienaber told the official SA Rugby website.

Nienaber is particularly wary of the fact that Gatland had a decent record against the Springboks while he was head coach of Wales.

Before the Springboks beat Gatland's men 19-16 in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals, Wales had notched four consecutive Test wins against South Africa.

In 2018, they beat the Boks twice - 20-11 in Cardiff and 22-20 in Washington DC - and before that they notched two wins in Cardiff - 24-22 (2017) and 27-13 (2016).

"One thing I do know about Warren is that he will do his homework," Nienaber added. "If your look into the past, the Welsh were a team that we always struggled against."

This will be Gatland's third tour in charge of the Lions - in 2013 he steered them to a 2-1 series win over the Wallabies and in 2017 they drew 1-1 with the All Blacks.

With an eye on naming his squad in early June, Nienaber said he was happy to see South Africa's top local players back in action in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA.

"If you look at the last weekend's Rainbow Cup action then you will see that the intensity went up a notch," the Bok mentor said.

"I must say we have a nice relationships with our franchises, allowing us to meet the players just to align ourselves again.

"And the pleasing thing for me was to see how the players are working on and improving on the things we spoke about during those alignment camps.

"I think we have less than 80 days before we play the Lions and the coaches and players have to utilise every second of that time to make sure we are well prepared for the series."

Nienaber added that the Lions, who tour South Africa only once every 12 years, were a special team to play against.

"I know for a fact there are certain players who have postponed their retirement because the tour was two years down the horizon. So I think all the stars are aligned for a great series," he said.

On their last visit to these shores in 2009, the Lions lost the series 2-1 to the Springboks.

British & Irish Lions squad:

Backs (16)

Josh Adams (WAL), Bundee Aki (IRL), Dan Biggar (WAL), Elliot Daly (ENG), Gareth Davies (WAL), Owen Farrell (ENG), Chris Harris (SCO), Robbie Henshaw (IRL), Stuart Hogg (SCO), Conor Murray (IRL), Ali Price (SCO), Louis Rees-Zammit (WAL), Finn Russell (SCO), Duhan van der Merwe (SCO), Anthony Watson (ENG), Liam Williams (WAL)

Forwards (21)

Tadhg Beirne (IRL), Jack Conan (IRL), Luke Cowan-Dickie (ENG), Tom Curry (ENG), Zander Fagerson (SCO), Taulupe Faletau (WAL), Tadhg Furlong (IRL), Jamie George (ENG), Iain Henderson (IRL), Jonny Hill (ENG), Maro Itoje (ENG), Alun Wyn Jones (WAL, capt), Wyn Jones (WAL), Courtney Lawes (ENG), Ken Owens (WAL), Andrew Porter (IRL), Sam Simmonds (ENG), Rory Sutherland (SCO), Justin Tipuric (WAL), Mako Vunipola (ENG), Hamish Watson (SCO)

Fixtures:

Jun 26: v Japan, Murrayfield (warm-up match)

Jul 3: v Stormers, Cape Town

Jul 7: v SA Invitation XV, Gqeberha

Jul 10: v Sharks, Durban

Jul 14: v South Africa 'A', Mbombela

Jul 17: v Bulls, Pretoria

Jul 24: SOUTH AFRICA v BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS, 1st TEST, Johannesburg

Jul 31: SOUTH AFRICA v BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS, 2ND TEST, Cape Town

Aug 7: SOUTH AFRICA v BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS, 3RD TEST, Johannesburg

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