John Smit has warned against under-estimating the strength of the British & Irish Lions for next year’s tour to South Africa.
The southern hemisphere trio of the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies have remained unbeaten over the November internationals against European opposition and the latter pair can complete a clean sweep this weekend with wins over England and Wales.
Their results will give the Boks a vital mental edge over the tourists but the Bok captain was weary of writing off the Lions just yet. “If you look at the world rankings, the top three sides are New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. The result have been accurate in that sense,” Smit told Die Burger.
The Boks may have given England a 42-6 hiding, but they were unconvincing against Wales and Scotland, while they didn’t face Ireland. The number of English players vying for Lions first XV spots will be minimal and Smit believes the Lions will be a force when all the countries unite.
“Whether it [those results] counts for anything with regards the Lions, who knows? They still get to choose from four teams [England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland]. It’s difficult to take too much from our tour.”
Smit did however say the year-end tour was good preparation for the series in June.
“Before we even got on the plane for the tour we had next year on our minds. The tour helped lay a foundation for what is coming,” said Smit.
Smit lauded coach Peter de Villiers for allowing the players to stick to a game-plan they are familiar with. The English victory was based on intense defence, territorial appreciation, as well as dominating the collisions.
“The coach [De Villiers] told us from the outset he would not try to reinvent the wheel. He always knew we had big guys that we could use to our advantage,” said Smit. “It was satisfying to end the year like that.”