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Page last updated at 21:03 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 22:03 UK

Lions omissions shock De Villiers

Pieter de Villiers
De Villiers was appointed as coach of South Africa in January 2008

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has expressed shock that the captains of England, Scotland and Wales have been left out of the Lions squad.

Lions coach Ian McGeechan chose a 37-man squad but omitted Steve Borthwick, Mike Blair and Ryan Jones.

"The one thing that surprised me was that the leaders of three home nations weren't included in the squad," De Villiers told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"The guys that play under those guys respect them."

He added: "Those are the guys that can stand up in meetings and try to resolve small niggles and things that can evolve on a long tour like this."

If McGeechan wants to try to match the Springboks then I think that is the wrong thing

Boks coach Peter de Villiers

But McGeechan reiterated that form rather than status was the overriding factor behind his selection.

"I am fully aware that there are some very good players that are not there," he told 5 Live's Rugby Special programme. "That just puts the onus on hoping we have got the selections and combinations right.

"You have got to be very objective. You don't look at the colour of the jersey they are wearing or what status they have.

"You are looking at them as rugby players, and at the best combinations, who might play from one country with somebody from another country.

"That is the magic that only the Lions can bring - putting players together that under no other circumstances would ever play together.

"I tried to be up front with everyone and said I would pick on form. It is the shortest tour ever so players have to be coming in with a bit of confidence and form."

De Villiers also expressed surprise at McGeechan's decision to appoint Ireland lock Paul O'Connell as Lions captain ahead of regular Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll.


"Brian O'Driscoll was the captain of the last Lions team, even though he got injured, and he was the captain of the most successful Six Nations team this year. That's a second big surprise."

Additionally, De Villiers was sceptical of McGeechan's decision to pack his team with physically imposing players who could combat the powerful Boks.

"If McGeechan wants to sit down and try to match the Springboks then I think that is the wrong thing," he added.

"If he wants to say 'this is our strength, this is how we want to play the game, these are the people who can do the job for me' then I can justify any selection he has made.

"But I will not sit down and say 'they are going to do this, so I should do this'. I am more focused on what I want to do and I will find the talent and the players to do the job for us."

Aside from the preponderance of "beasts" - to use scrum coach Graham Rowntree's phrase - among the forwards, the other main talking point of the Lions selection was McGeechan's decision to only take two fly-halves, Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara.

"We only have five games before the first Test," McGeechan explained.

"In a key position like that, I think you need game-time. Even now one of them will probably only get two games to get up to speed and you do rely on them to drive the team and the tactics.

"With three it could have left us a little short and a little cold. Also, Riki Flutey is the one that I see as being able to cover that position, particularly during games."

The tour officially begins on 30 May with a game against a Highveld XV with the Tests against the Springboks starting on 20 June.

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see also
Backs give Boks edge - Du Plessis
23 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
O'Connell handed Lions captaincy
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Telfer worried by low Lions count
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Boks surprised by O'Connell pick
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Ferris is among 14 Ireland Lions
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Ryan Jones suffers shock omission
21 Apr 09 |  Welsh
De Villiers named Springbok coach
09 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott column
22 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union

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