One year ahead of the first Test in Johannesburg, Nienaber told the SA Rugby Podcast on Friday that he was expecting a battle from Gatland and his touring team.
It was set to be Nienaber’s second encounter with the Lions after he
was involved with Western Province when they were handed a narrow
26-23 defeat by the tourists in Cape Town in 2009.
Four years later, Gatland’s Lions earned a 2-1 series victory over the Wallabies, and in 2017 they went on to secure a 1-1 series draw against New Zealand after the final encounter ended in a 15-15 stalemate.
“Warren Gatland’s coaching ability and
experience, and the teams he assembled on their two previous tours to Australia and New Zealand, speaks for itself,” Nienaber said.
“The series victory in Australia was their first in 16 years, since they beat the Boks in 1997, and we know how tough it is to get a win or a draw in New Zealand.
“Warren and his coaching staff are very experienced in the Lions set-up [and they know] what is needed to fuse players from four teams and four different styles of play, and what buttons to press to unlock the emotions, skill sets and grunt from various countries.
“They will certainly have all their ducks in a row and it will be a massive challenge for us.”
One specific area of concern for Nienaber was that the Springboks would not know exactly what to expect from the Lions.
In an effort to ensure they were ready, however, he was taking notes from the Waikato Chiefs (coached by Gatland) in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition which was launched last month.
“The negative for us is that we don’t know what type of playing style they will bring to South Africa,” Nienaber said.
“We’re watching Warren with the Chiefs at the moment, to see what direction they are taking as he might bring some of that over to SA next year.
“There certainly is enough intrigue and story lines involved that makes for one massive clash next year.”