AUDIO: Gatland has 'unfinished business'
LISTEN as newly appointed British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland speaks about his plans for their tour of South African in 2021.
Gatland, who is stepping down from his role as Wales boss after this year’s World Cup, has been named coach of the B&I Lions for a third consecutive time.
The 55-year-old New Zealander was in charge for the previous two Lions trips a two-one series win in Australia in 2013 and a one-all draw in New Zealand two years ago.
Gatland, who will start as head coach on August 1 next year and will work exclusively with the Lions until the conclusion of the 2021 tour to South Africa 12 months later, would create Lions history by becoming the first person to lead tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and remain unbeaten – should they win or draw in SA.
However, it was his trip to South Africa in 2009 that tipped the scale in favour of taking the job.
He was forwards coach for the Ian McGeechan-led coaching team – when the metronomic boot of Morné Steyn slotted a 55-metre penalty to clinch the crucial second Test 28-25 at Loftus Versfeld.
Although the B&I Lions convincingly won the third Test 28-9 at Ellis Park, Steyn’s winner also clinched the series (two-one).
Gatland admitted he would like to set the record straight after the narrow defeat in 2009.
“[It is a] bit of unfinished business really,” Gatland said in a teleconference call.
He spoke of being “really excited” about the trip to South Africa.
“Given their rugby history and traditions of the game, it is a beautiful country to tour.”
Gatland spoke about “traditionally tough” rugby and the challenge of playing at sea level and at altitude.
“Personally 2009 adds a little bit of unfinished business really,” Gatland said.
“We spoke about the potential and I couldn’t turn my back on the challenge,” he added.
“The challenge of leading three [B&I] Lions tours undefeated in a series is one of the [other] things that motivated me to accept this role.
“The Lions tour is unique and I understand financially how important it is to the host union.
“Playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges – in a way that it is [the last] of the old traditional tours that the Southern Hemisphere countries rarely get to experience, where 40 or 50 percent of the fans being away fans.
“That creates an unbelievable atmosphere at the games.”
He admitted that in 2009 there were question marks about the Lions as a brand and whether it was going to continue.
“Our focus [in 2009] was to go to South Africa and earn some respect,” he added.
He spoke of the “huge honour” to lead the Lions again.
“It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four Home Nations.
“The Lions rightly have a truly special place in the game and I jumped at the chance to be involved again when I was approached about the role. South Africa is a special place to play rugby.”
“History tells you it’s a tough place to tour but I am 100 percent confident that we can go there and win. I would not be here if I thought differently.”
By Jan de Koning