Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is gearing up for a bruising battle in the Castle Series against Ian McGeechan’s 2009 British & Irish Lions this summer.
In his assessment of what he saw in the Six Nations championship, de Villiers told the Daily Mail that “the physicality of the players” was what stood out for him.
Given the reputation of Lions head coach McGeechan in picking big forwards, de Villiers says he is preparing for a battle of the juggernauts up front.
“The intensity of the club rugby in the UK is very high, especially in the forward play. The physicality of the guys is probably more apparent than the skill levels,” de Villiers told the Daily Mail’s Chris Foy.
“The main thing that I noticed in the Six Nations was the physicality of the players and how they rise to the occasion. We expected the British and Irish players to be physical. Just look at the Wales-Ireland game – both coaches selected the biggest teams they could.
“And just look at sides Ian McGeechan has prepared in the past – he has filled them with big forwards and he likes those players to be in charge. I expect that there will be a real emphasis on forward play again when the Lions come to South Africa.”
McGeechan and de Villiers were both at the IRB meeting in London this week to discuss the ELVs. The next time they meet will be in opposing dug outs at the ABSA Stadium in Durban on June 20 when the three-match series kicks off.
As to who the Lions will have in their ranks that day, de Villiers isn’t sure. Although he does believe a few previously unsung candidates strengthened their case for inclusion during the Six Nations.
“A guy like Riki Flutey really stood out for me. He seemed to come on in leaps and bounds and has really put himself into the Lions reckoning. And look at Andy Powell – he was a no-name a year ago and now he has really made an impression,” added de Villiers.
“Then there are the stars who play consistently week after week and you know what to expect from them. Shane Williams is like that, and Delon Armitage has also performed well regularly for England.
“Another player who I really noticed is the England No 8, Nick Easter. What a great player he is.
“McGeechan is a very astute coach and he will make a good choice. But what you learn from watching Lions teams is that they operate as a unit, not as a group of individuals.”