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Page last updated at 07:11 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 08:11 UK

Botha tips S Africa to beat Lions

Naas Botha
Botha played against the British Lions in 1980

Springbok legend Naas Botha is confident South Africa will emerge as victors over the British and Irish Lions this summer.

Under coach Ian McGeechan, the Lions go head to head with the Springboks in a three-Test series, which starts on 20 June following some warm-up matches.

But Botha, capped 28 times at fly-half, is sure world champions South Africa are strong favourites.

"I will be surprised if we don't walk away as winners," Botha told BBC Wales.

"Unfortunately for [the Lions] South Africa are in good shape at the moment.

"The outstanding players of the Super 14 have been our players and that is a good omen for us.


"We are playing a faster game at the moment and the guys physically are in unbelievable condition."

But Botha says he has been impressed by the standard of the Six Nations Championship and believes Mike Phillips is on course to be the starting scrum-half and Brian O'Driscoll is a shoo-in as captain.

"Mike Phillips I think by far is [the Lions'] better scrum-half,'' insisted Botha.

"Physically he is such a strong player. He has got a fantastic pass and his kicking game is not that bad. His cover defence is good as well."

Botha, who says Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara will be the Lions' choice at fly-half, believes O'Driscoll should be named captain.

"O'Driscoll is a fantastic captain," he stated. "The way he played this whole Six Nations he should have played himself straight into the captaincy."

Botha is also impressed with Lee Byrne and is a big fan of Shane Williams and thinks Tom Shanklin is a candidate for the centre along with O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy and Riki Flutey.

The outstanding players of the Super 14 have been our players and that is a good omen for us

Naas Botha

"Shane Williams is playing in a different class. If you feed him the right amount of good, clean ball on the outside he is going to score tries," said Botha.

As well as the Springboks being in good form, Botha reveals that South African players like Victor Matfield, John Smit and Schalk Burger are targeting the summer tour because Springboks-Lions series have been few and far between - 1974, 1980 and 1997 - in the past 35 years.

"[Many] players don't get that tour on the cv. That's why I believe the players know that and that's why they are hanging around. They want to make it a big one," warned Botha.

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see also
Lions fears for injured star trio
28 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Four in frame for Lions captaincy
26 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Davies defuses Wales-Ireland row
28 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions Watch - Pundits' verdict
24 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions abandon extended squad plan
15 Jan 09 |  Rugby Union
Coaching team delights McGeechan
22 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
South Africa set sights on Lions
04 Dec 08 |  Rugby Union

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