British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan says next year’s tour to South Africa will be one of the biggest challenges of his career.
News 24 reports that the Lions, under McGeechan, won the 1997 series against the Springboks 2-1 and get another opportunity against the world champions next year.
McGeechan says the fact the Lions will be on tour for seven weeks, in which they’ll play three Tests against Boks, makes the tour a unique experience.
“Ten games in seven weeks is very unique to modern day rugby,” McGeechan told a press gathering on Sunday.
“The challenge is so different to anything one experiences in rugby today. The only other time a team is on tour for so long is during the Rugby World Cup.
“No one experiences real touring anymore. The challenge for us as a management team is to keep the players fresh throughout the trip. That will definitely be the biggest challenge.”
McGeechan, however, added that the fact that two of the three Tests will be played away from sea level poses another challenge.
“Last time we were here (in 1997) Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria was missed out. On this occasion, Cape Town misses out.
“Sure the altitude thing poses another test for us, but like so many other things, there are ways of dealing with that. We can play for it.
“We’re going to have to be pro-active as a group and make sure the players have the best opportunities to perform at their best on the tour. Timing will be key – seven weeks is a long time.”
The Lions will face the Boks in the northern hemisphere summer in Tests at Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban.
McGeechan and team manager Gerald Davies have been on a nine-day trip to South Africa to check venues and training facilities ahead of the tour.
“This was simply an operational visit, but I did manage to see the Boks take on Wales. They were pretty impressive over the last two weeks. They’ve got some real talent out there and a good mix of experience and youth in the ranks,” said McGeechan.
“My intention, however, is to come back during the Tri-Nations and focus more on the rugby.”
McGeechan said he was still a long way off naming a captain for the 2009 tour.
“I’ll name my captain only when the squad is named and that will be in January or February next year. There is still a lot to be done between now and then.
“I’ll initially pick a squad of about 65 players at that time, and then select a final squad of 35 or so closer to the tour.”Tweet