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Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 18:07 UK

Boks surprised by O'Connell pick

Peter de Villiers
Peter de Villiers previously coached the Emerging Springboks

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers admits he did not expect Ireland's Paul O'Connell to be named as captain for the Lions' summer tour.

"I am surprised that Paul O'Connell got the captaincy ahead of Brian O'Driscoll," he said.

"O'Driscoll was the most successful captain in the Six Nations and captained the Lions four years ago."

The Leinster centre led O'Connell and the rest of the Ireland team to a first Grand Slam in 61 years this season.

"Having said that, O'Connell is the captain of Munster and has also captained Ireland at Test level and we will not underestimate his leadership capabilities," added De Villiers.


"It is a good squad, which is what we expected, based on the players who were on form in the Six Nations and understanding the type of players that Ian McGeechan was looking for.

"Now that we know the make-up of the Lions squad we will be able to advance our preparations in terms of our analysis of their strengths and weaknesses and how we must prepare for the three Tests."

De Villiers became South Africa's first black coach when he took over the reins from Jake White almost three months after their 2007 World Cup triumph.

He has won nine of his 13 games in charge, including tour victories over England, Scotland and Wales this autumn, but finished bottom of last year's Tri Nations table.

De Villiers' own captain John Smit paid tribute to his Lions counterpart, ahead of the first Test in Durban on 20 June.

"Paul O'Connell is a team man who is well respected internationally and it is obvious they are trying to replicate the vibe and momentum that they had with the same coach in 1997," he said.

"We always expected them to pick strong and aggressive forwards, which indicates that they see the scrum and line-out as key elements of the contest.

Martin Johnson, now England team manager, lead the 1997 side to a 2-1 series win from second row, despite not captaining his country at the time.

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see also
O'Connell handed Lions captaincy
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Telfer worried by low Lions count
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Lion Ellis backs excluded Croft
21 Apr 09 |  English
Ferris is among 14 Ireland Lions
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Ryan Jones suffers shock omission
21 Apr 09 |  Welsh
Lions squad selector
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
McGeechan eyes potential Lions
06 Oct 08 |  Scottish
England 6-42 South Africa
22 Nov 08 |  English
Scotland 10-14 South Africa
15 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 53-8 Australia
31 Aug 08 |  Rugby Union
De Villiers named Springbok coach
09 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union

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