Springbok coach Peter de Villiers was expecting Brian O’Driscoll, and not Paul O’Connell, to captain the Lions team to face the Springboks.
Lions boss Ian McGeechan released the names of the 37-man squad on Tuesday afternoon with O’Connell entrusted with the leadership responsibilities.
‘I am surprised that Paul O’Connell got the captaincy ahead of Brian O’ Driscoll, who was the most successful captain in the Six Nations in 2009 and captained the Lions to New Zealand four years ago,’ said De Villiers.
‘Having said that, O’Connell is the captain of Munster and has also captained Ireland at Test level and we will not underestimate his leadership capabilities.’
Bok captain John Smit said O’Connell is renowned across the world for his abilities as a player and leader.
‘The captain Paul O’Connell is a team man who is well respected internationally and it is obvious they are trying to replicate the vibe and momentum that they had with the same coach in 1997,’ said Smit.
Smit is expected to start at tighthead during the series and he highlighted the emphasis the Lions selectors have placed on a big pack.
‘We always expected them to pick strong and aggressive forwards, which indicates that they see the scrum and lineout as key elements of the contest,’ said the Bok captain.
‘It is not surprising that the squad is dominated by players from the two teams [Ireland and Wales] that contested for the Six Nations title,’ he said.
‘There is depth in every position, which is what they will need on a long and tough tour. We expect that there will be strong competition for places in all positions, which will make things interesting for us.’