AUDIO: Gatland wants 'Super' challenge in 2021
REACTION: Warren Gatland, coach for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021, wants his team to tested, not fed cannon fodder.
Speaking after his appointment this week, Gatland said he would like the best possible opposition South Africa can offer in the build-up to the Test series.
Gatland, who has been officially unveiled as the B&I Lions head coach for the 2021 tour to SA this week, will relinquish his role as Wales boss after the World Cup and will then start his official Lions duties in August 2020.
The 55-year-old former All Black will lead the Lions for the third consecutive tour, having assisted Ian McGeechan in South Africa in 2009 – before winning the 2013 series in Australia and drawing with New Zealand in 2017.
He will be intimately involved in the planning of the tour, including the schedule.
While nothing in the schedule has been agreed yet, there is talk of eight games in 2021 – including three Tests.
“That poses challenges for us in terms of how much time we have for preparation before the tour,” Gatland said in a conference call.
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Before the New Zealand tour the B&I Lions only departed the United Kingdom on the Monday, arrived in New Zealand on the Wednesday and their first game was on the Saturday.
“I am hoping in two years  we will have a couple of weeks together,” Gatland said, adding: “If there are eight games, you are looking at four games before the first Test.
“On previous tours, I attempted to guarantee every player a start in the early games.
“This tour [to SA] may be a little different. We potentially might have more pre-conceived ideas about what the side for the first Test might look like.
“That will all be part of our planning.”
When it comes to the quality of opposition in build-up to the Test series, Gatland has no doubt what he wants.
“You want to play the best,” he said, adding: “You want to play the best players in South Africa.
“In past in tours to South Africa and Australia, there were some games where the opposition hasn’t been as strong and you were able to pull back a little bit, because you are playing opposition you are expected to beat comfortably.
“Playing Super Rugby sides that had a whole season together will be tough and will give us the best preparation leading into the Test matches.”
He described South Africa is a “special place” to play rugby.
“They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game.
“Having toured there in 2009 I know the scale of the task ahead of us – playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated.”
By Jan de Koning
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