SOUTH AFRICA boss Rassie Erasmus warned that his English-based “big dogs” will take a chunk out of the Lions.
The Springboks squad will be packed with Premiership stars when it is announced next Saturday.
Their key generals in the bid to take down Warren Gatland’s tourists this summer are World Cup-winning Sale Sharks pair Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager.
And Erasmus whose side have not played for more than 500 days due to Covid-19 said: “The nice thing is that our old dogs, our big dogs, our guys from the World Cup are playing consistently and against the Lions.
“Those guys are in form and on top of their game.
“And we have our local boys who have been playing trials every week for a year and a half, just playing against each other.”
Due to a travel ban and lockdowns, South Africa’s last game was the World Cup final win against England in November 2019.
The three-Test Lions series starts in Cape Town in August and Erasmus said: “We have been thinking a lot about that. We have discussed it a lot.
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“Of the 33 man squad, three have retired. But at the World Cup we were together for 22 weeks prior to the tournament – and the other 30 are currently available or not ruled out of selection.
“So the guys are familiar with each other. The British and Irish Lions haven’t played together.
“They also have that same sort of disadvantage as us. We last played in 2019, so more recently than them.
“And we are all from the one country, we are all South Africans, we know each other.
“So, yes, it is a challenge, and yes we haven’t played a lot together, but we are almost in the same boat as the Lions.
“They have to put four countries together with four different game plans, styles and cultures, mindsets whereas we have one – South Africa – and we have had time together.
“It would have been good to play last year, but we see it as even par with the Lions. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Former second-row Erasmus made his Springboks debut against the Lions in the 1997 series defeat.
He added: “In those days you didn’t understand the enormity of the British and Irish Lions.
“But now I think the only thing in the whole world of rugby that is special is probably the British and Irish Lions.
“There’s so much of the same – this competition and that competition.
“There’s not a person that follows rugby that doesn’t know what date the British and Irish Lions play.
“It was special back in ’97 and we’re just really really thankful that it’s going to happen now. It is such a special thing.
“There are very few people who can say they’ve played against four countries together on one Saturday.
“The World Cup is the pinnacle but, hell, it’s bloody close.”
Lions squad arrive for photoshoot ahead of South Africa tour