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2021 Lions tour already looming into view for the Springboks

Rassie Erasmus wants the Boks to become a consistent force between now and then.

THE SAD PART of yesterday’s World Cup final was the realisation that we now have to wait another four years for the next edition in France.

2023 seems a long way off and for disappointed nations like Ireland, Scotland, Argentina, New Zealand, and many others, that four-year wait is going to feel like an eternity.

On the plus side, we’re now just two years away from the next Lions tour, with Warren Gatland already confirmed as head coach for the trip to South Africa in 2021.

siya-kolisi-lifts-the-webb-ellis-trophy-with-the-president-of-south-africa-cyril-ramaphosa Siya Kolisi and South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa lift the World Cup. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The fact that the Springboks will be reigning World Cup champions for that visit of the touring side makes it all the more appetising. Speaking after his team’s convincing win over England last night, Rassie Erasmus was already looking towards that next challenge.

“When I took over 18 months ago, it was 618 days to the World Cup and we planned to win it,” said Erasmus in Yokohama.

“It is now 614 days to the British and Irish Lions and we will start planning now.” 

Erasmus will step aside from his role as Springboks head coach after this World Cup and concentrate on his position as director of rugby for South African rugby, although there is a growing feeling that current assistant coach Jacques Nienaber will move into the head coaching job to provide continuity.

Erasmus will continue to work directly with the Springboks, who will come up against the highly-experienced Gatland, set for his third tour as head coach after a series success in Australia in 2013 and a drawn series in New Zealand in 2017.

Speaking after his side’s World Cup semi-final loss to the Boks, Gatland also indicated that he is already looking forward to getting stuck in with the Lions, though he has a year with the Chiefs in Super Rugby to worry about first.

“I’ve got some excitement ahead about the challenges going back to New Zealand with the Chiefs and then back to the Lions in 12 months or so and then try to have some revenge on this game against South Africa,” said Gatland.

“Maybe in a couple of years with the Lions, we’ll be able to do that.”

daniel-russow-bismark-du-plessis-and-john-smit The Boks were victorious in an epic series back in 2009. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It will be fascinating to see how the make-up of Gatland’s next Lions squad pans out. Right now, Ireland fans probably wouldn’t be too confident of having a large contingent involved with the Lions but so much can change in the space of two seasons.

2017 tourists like Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and Jack McGrath will have ambitions of featuring again in 2021, and even Johnny Sexton – who will be nearly 36 – has indicated his desire to go on a third Lions tour. 

Younger guns like James Ryan, Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour, Andrew Porter, Joey Carbery, and Jacob Stockdale will also be doing their utmost to convince Gatland in 2021. 

Selection is obviously a long way off but Erasmus must look at his own squad with a fair degree of confidence.

34-year-old loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira is set to make an announcement on his future in the coming days and he has already tasted success against the Lions the last time they were in South Africa for a superb series in 2009.

Francois Louw [34], Duane Vermeulen [33], Frans Steyn [32], Willie le Roux [30], Schalk Brits [38], and Trevor Nyakane [30] are the other players in the World Cup squad who are in their 30s but you wouldn’t put it past at least some of them to be involved.

Otherwise, this Boks squad will all be aiming to feature against the Lions, with many feeling the best years of their careers are still ahead.

cheslin-kolbe-celebrates-his-try Cheslin Kolbe is still only 25. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Whoever is appointed as head coach will be working with Erasmus to ensure there is no post-World Cup dip for the Boks in 2020 and 2021 as they build into what could be an epic series against the Lions.

“The big thing for us is to stay consistent,” said Erasmus. “What Eddie Jones has done with England when they won 23 out of 24 games and was starting to be consistent and with what Warren Gatland has done with Wales starting to be consistent, that’s where we need to be.

“We were terrible at that in 2018, we were up and down, but this year we’ve played 12 Tests and lost one so we have got that consistency back.

“Yes, we’ve got the World Cup now, but going into next year if you lose the first Test, people forget about the World Cup and that’s not where we want to be.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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