SOUTH AFRICA have the players to overcome any challenge the British and Irish Lions throw at them during their three-test tour, former World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White said yesterday.
“I’m not meaning to sound arrogant and this is not all about me saying the Lions have got no chance, but whatever they throw at the Springboks, I believe they can pick the players to counter that and there is no reason the Springboks can’t win the series,” White said.
“If the Lions go for a massive pack and very physical forwards, there’s no reason South Africa can’t pick bigger and more physical guys.
“We have players like Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Gurthro Steenkamp and Danie Rossouw to stop them.
“If they go for speed and try to run us off our feet, do they have anyone better than Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski or Schalk Burger?” added White, who coached South Africa from 2004-2007 and guided them to World Cup victory in 2007 in France.
South Africa lost the last series against the Lions in 1997 2-1. A Jeremy Guscott drop goal at the death gave the Lions an 18-15 victory in the second test at Durban for a decisive 2-0 series lead.
White said there were two pitfalls South Africa needed to avoid if they were to avenge the defeat.
“In 1997, the Springboks out-scored the Lions nine tries to three but lost the series because they didn’t have a goalkicker.
“In 1974 (won 3-0 by the Lions), the selectors tried to swap the players around — we used 33 in the four tests. So this time there’s got to be consistency in selection,” White said.
White introduced most of the players used by South Africa coach Peter De Villiers last year to international rugby.
“Obviously I’m biased about those players I rated highly, but South Africa does have a very special group of players at the moment,” he said.
“Peter de Villiers has some options. The first test in Durban (June 20) will be a most important clash because it will set the benchmark.
“He could choose a lot of players from a top-class Sharks side because they’d have home ground advantage, but the negative is that they might have come straight off a gruelling Super 14 final.
“If winning means choosing two or three overseas players, then you do that. You’d be crazy if you don’t and they’d have more time to prepare, plus they would understand the opposition.”
The second test will be played in Pretoria on June 27 and the third in Johannesburg on July 4.
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