It promises to be an even bigger showdown than in 2009 when the Springboks were once again the best team in the world when they welcomed the Lions. I have bittersweet memories of that tour, but more of that later. Rugby enthusiasts can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
News from South Africa last week was tremendously encouraging after some of the fatality runners had been predicting that the game might not return for some time, casting doubt on next summer’s tour. But rugby is back on the agenda after being suspended for nearly six months.
The first steps back will reflect what we had in Wales, with local derbies, and then they will look to follow New Zealand’s lead with a test. They will have to catch up very quickly if they want to be competitive in the Rugby Championship that is scheduled to follow.
But whatever the short-term goals, the main focus will surely be on next year’s Lions tour. That will dominate their minds from now until then, just as it will be a huge focus of attention for players from the four local unions. It was always like this in a season preparing for a Lions tour.
The national season in South Africa will resume on September 26 with a double game at Loftus Versfeld, where the Bulls will face the Sharks and their Lions will face the Stormers. Then comes the Springbok test on October 3: Springbok Green v Springbok Gold.
While all of this is going on, an interested observer will be Warren Gatland, who has headed back to the Northern Hemisphere to pass check on some possible candidates as the European season reaches its climax alongside the English Premiership.
He will certainly return to Australia if the Springboks can participate in the Rugby Championship. Gats’ preparation is second to none and he will want to see where the Boks are one year after their World Cup triumph.
It was in South Africa in 2009 that he first got a taste of life with the Lions as a forward coach. He learned at the feet of the teacher, Ian McGeechan, and has carried forward his love for Lion’s traditions and values.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the 2009 tour possibly saved the Lions from extinction. In the wake of the 2005 tour of New Zealand, which went terribly wrong, the trip to South Africa four years later was the last chance.
I know we didn’t win the series, but by winning the third and final round in Johannesburg by a record margin, we left the country with our heads held high. More than that, everyone who had seen us couldn’t wait for the Lions to return.
Since then, Gats has planned a 2-1 win in Australia and the series tied in New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn it into a third series in charge without a loss?
Going back to that last game in South Africa 11 years ago, it remains one of my best memories in rugby. It had been a difficult tour for me and I was passed over on the first test. I struggled to reach the playing heights of the previous year and became increasingly frustrated.
I got a couple of minutes in the second test, which we should have won, and then I started in the third and final game at Ellis Park. We all went out to enjoy the final game and I finished with two attempts and the man of the match award.
I felt like I had redeemed myself a bit. More importantly, the character displayed by the team was superb and gave the Lions a true mainstay for the upcoming tour. I just hope the “Class of 2021” remembers how we ended up in 2009.
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