CAPE TOWN - British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland certainly raised a few eyebrows with some of his selections for the tour of South Africa.
There were surprises aplenty, with some big names missing out. There was also, of course, the odd surprise inclusion. At least you can never say Gatland doesn’t always keep it interesting…
Here are four British & Irish Lions the Boks will want to keep an eye on.
With that single performance against Japan at the weekend, Biggar should have done enough to convince anyone and everyone that he should wear the general’s jersey when against the Boks.
During the Murrayfield fixture, he was simply sensational, near flawless, actually, and was, naturally, named Man of the Match.
He effortlessly and superbly moved the Lions around the field like some kind of grandmaster with rugby pawns. His kicking was outstanding, his passing – especially that range – deserving of praise. He was just a mean challenge for the Japanese to deal with.
He again showed that he knows how to play his way back into the picture when written off.
He embodies the modern-day athlete, and when it comes to describing his playing style, ‘confrontational’ doesn’t do him justice, because he’s much more than that.
The 26-year-old is right up there when it comes to talent and was influential in the Lions’ (drawn) Series against the All Blacks in 2017. And, since then, he’s gone from ‘future star’ to one of the best second-row forwards in the world.
Now, if you go out on a tour or any Test and aim to match the South African forwards’ physicality, not too long into the Test you’ll most likely realise that’s a senseless objective that will only result in disappointment. But if there is one guy in the Lions camp who can dare to dream about it, it’s Itoje.
Duhan van der Merwe
If Cheslin Kolbe rates a player, as in really rates him, who are the rest of us mere mortals not to?
After winning the Top 14 with Toulouse on Friday, the world’s best player was asked about the prospect of facing Van der Merwe in the three-Test Series when he runs out for the Lions. His response? The South African-born Scotland international ‘has got everything a winger needs’.
Kolbe went on to say: “He is an unbelievable player. He can run with the ball and he is so good on defence and he, like the other guys in their back three, have got good balance.”
Is there anything else to be said?
His appointment as captain following Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones’ devastating injury, which ruled him out of the Series, was a surprising one. Really surprising, actually, but by no means questionable.
While the Munster and Ireland scrumhalf has only ever captained Munster once, back in 2014, he was most definitely a left-field appointment given his lack of experience and considering how highly pressurised the role is, his abilities are bold enough to overshadow any captaincy greenness.
He wasn’t at his best against Japan and his consistency has wavered slightly in recent years, but when he’s good, he’s really good.
His decision-making is class, his box-kicking sharp, and then there’s that crisp – and oh-so-accurate – pass. Give him a high ball, have him find space with the boot, watch his defensive shifts…thus guy is solid all round.