By Nick Said
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Hooker Jamie George and the other late arrivals in the British and Irish Lions squad have plenty of homework as they study the complex plays laid out by coach Warren Gatland to beat world champions South Africa.
George missed the first week of the team’s camp in Jersey ahead of their 28-10 victory over Japan on Saturday after helping Saracens to promotion from the Championship.
He now has to play catch-up as the visitors begin their eight-game tour of South Africa with a meeting against the Johannesburg-based Lions franchise at Ellis Park on Saturday.
"It was a bit tough last week, getting my head around things and working with different coaches. The transition in 2017 was perhaps a bit easier with Steve Borthwick coming in and me having such a close relationship with him," George told reporters on Tuesday.
"A lot of the plays that we had then were pretty similar to the ones we used with England at the time, whereas it is different here now. It’s just getting up to speed, there are a lot of walk-throughs and conversations happening around the laptop at the minute.
"The way the attacking shape works here is slightly different to the one I have been used to before, so there is a lot more studying."
George believes the set-piece in particular will be a key battle ground in the three-test series against the Springboks that starts on July 24.
The Boks used the scrum in particular to great effect when they beat England 32-12 in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan in 2019.
"Any time you come up against South Africa, set-piece is going to be absolutely huge. Whatever eight (forwards) play, it is something that we as Lions need to pride ourselves on and get this team on the front foot."
But it is not all hard work, George has another crucial function on tour – he is part of the entertainment committee, a role that has taken on extra significance given the strict COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa.
"I’m wracking my brains at the minute about how to keep the boys entertained. I didn’t have too much opportunity in my first week in Jersey, I thought it was probably more important to learn the plays rather than put on a show for the boys. But we’ll make sure get something on this week."
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)