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29th May 2021

Rassie Erasmus had a classic response to Lions players being called “hobbits”

Patrick McCarry


The two boys knocked a bit of craic out of this.

This will not be the last time we hear of Lions and hobbits.

We are still over a month away from the British & Irish Lions setting off for South Africa, on their eight-game tour, but anticipation is still bubbling away.

The Lions squad was announced on May 6 and the Springboks will confirm the 45 players they will call on for the Test Series and a South Africa ‘A’ game in mid July.

There has been some early verbals about who has the best chance of winning, and who can call themselves favourites. With the Boks and Lions playing it respectful, for now, respective media members have stepped in to lob grenades.

We have already had the Springboks labelled a busted flush and lucky world champions, and South African columnist Mark Keohane describing Warren Gatland’s squad as containing too many “Neville Nobodies” and plucky underdogs. ‘Gatland,’ Keohane declared, ‘has picked hobbits to be giant-slayers’.

During their Friday press briefing, Springboks coaching duo Rassie Erasmus [director of rugby] and Jacques Nienaber were asked about the ‘hobbit’ line, and it was suggested Keohane may have been referring to back-rows Hamish Watson and Sam Simmonds. Erasmus and Nienaber looked a mixture of perplexed and amused as they fielded a question about hobbit-like players.

“I hope it’s not our close [in-house] media that did it,” Erasmus joked.

“Jacques and I were talking about the squad. We studied it and, hell, that’s fast loose forwards, man. And it’s explosive loose forwards.

“I’m not sure if Courtney Lawes will back up flank/lock. I know Tadhg Beirne. I signed Tadhg for Munster, from the Scarlets. I know what he can do, in both. Then you look at the other loose forwards and, hell, the whole pack – the props are mobile and fast.

“It’s interesting the way he Gatland selected that squad. It’s almost a team that can play at the high veldt in winter at altitude. Those boys can move, and Simmonds specifically. He has made his mark, not from nowhere but he just stamped his authority and the way he was playing for Exeter, he was tough to ignore. I don’t know the selection policy but it looks like a really good pack to me.”

Nienaber, who took over from Erasmus as Springboks head coach after the successful 2019 World Cup campaign, added, ““If you look at Sam, it is well documented in terms of he is just improving his try-scoring record currently in the Premiership.

“I guess Warren went with guys who are on form because of both of them [Simmonds and Watson]. And the hobbit one, I don’t know where that came from.”

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