| Schalk Burger: Springbok World Cup win may have complicated Lions selection

Springbok legend Schalk Burger believes South Africa’s forwards dominance over England in the 2019 World Cup final may have left the British & Irish Lions with a few selection headaches.

The Lions tour South Africa in 2021 in what will be a massive affair where three Tests will be played at FNB Stadium, Cape Town Stadium and Ellis Park over July and August. 

Burger, who was a part of the Bok class of 2009 that was triumphant against the Lions the last time they visited South Africa, was speaking on Wednesday night on a Laureus Sport for Good Foundation webinar hosted by Jean de Villiers. 

In chatting about the significance of next year’s tour, Burger said he was particularly interested in what coach Warren Gatland would do with the Lions tight five.

Burger believes that England’s forwards had been so dominant in 2019 that they were the logical options to start for the Lions until they were obliterated by the Springbok pack in the November 2 final in Yokohama.

“That English side before the 2019 World Cup final happened, that tight five was probably earmarked as the tight five that would take the Lions forward,” Burger said.

“They were so dominant in their previous displays and then, unfortunately for them, they got shown up badly in that World Cup final. Selection-wise, that puts them in quite a tricky position for next year.”

Burger said it would also be interesting to see if Gatland would turn to any South African-born players. 

“There are a few South Africans starting to qualify for Scotland. You think about Oli Kebble, who has just been selected in the Six Nations squad, you think Pierre Schoeman at Edinburgh … there are options,” he said. 

Mark Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes were the starting English tight five in the World Cup final. 

A veteran of 86 Test matches, Burger then remembers playing for Saracens in England when the Lions squad for the 2017 tour to New Zealand was announced.

“I was there when the English squad was announced and the whole of training stopped. The announcement was on a big screen and every Saracens that made it, it was basically like a full-on stag do,” he said. 

“I don’t even think they celebrated like that when they got their English caps. It’s just such a unique opportunity for them to go showcase their skills against the All Blacks.

“This is going to be the same … there are so many players that aspire to play for the Lions.  It’s the pinnacle for those guys.”

– Compiled by Sport24 staff

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