By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Conor Murray’s appointment as British and Irish Lions captain has been hailed by the two South African coaches he will go up against in the three-test series and who know him well.
The Ireland scrumhalf was named skipper of the touring party after Alun Wyn Jones was injured in Saturday’s 28-10 victory for the Lions over Japan and ruled out of the tour.
Murray, 32, played at Munster under South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and new Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, who on Sunday both applauded his appointment.
"I enjoyed working with Conor, ‘Mer’ as he is known. He’s a no-nonsense guy, there are no bells and whistles around him and he’s to the point.
"He just gets on with the job and he’s brilliant at what he does," said Nienaber, who was one of Erasmus’ assistants at the Irish club from in 2016-17.
"He has a steady hand, has a good skills set and people enjoy him. He’s a great choice as tour captain."
Nienaber suggested had Murray not been injured for Munster’s 2017 European Champions cup semi-final against Saracens in Dublin, the English team might not have won 26-10.
"He was a big loss and we felt it when he wasn’t there.”
Erasmus predicted the Lions would feel the loss of veteran lock Jones but “there are a lot of other leaders” in their squad.
"We know we are in for a tough one," he added.
Erasmus said the injuries would be disruptive to the Lions’ planning. Flanker Justin Tipuric was also ruled out of the South Africa tour after suffering a shoulder knock at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Welsh duo Adam Beard and Josh Navidi have been called up to replace them and will fly out with the squad on Sunday.
"I think the closer it is to a tour and to the test matches, the tougher these disruptions are to handle," Erasmus said.
He was impressed with the Lions’ performance against Japan.
"They got rhythm quite quickly, and they will build up. We’ll see how they will do against the (Johannesburg) Lions next weekend."
The Lions’ opening match is at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)