“An opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime.”
That is how Lions coach Cash van Rooyen described the special chance to play against the visiting British and Irish Lions.
The local Lions weren’t supposed to get a game against the touring Lions in the original tour schedule, but after the revised schedule was announced last Friday Van Rooyen’s team will now get to play in the opening game.
Because it has been decided that Johannesburg and Cape Town will be used as bubbles to host the eight matches, cities like Durban, Port Elizabeth and also Nelspruit have lost their right to host a Lions tour match.
Van Rooyen was over the moon that the local Lions will now get a match against the visitors on 3 July which will mark the opening match of the tour.
“It will obviously be massive for us to play against the Lions tourists,” said Van Rooyen at the weekend.
“That opportunity could maybe come once in your career with them only visiting our shores every 12 years.”
While it is bound to be a much different tour with all the Covid measures in place it will still afford some players the opportunity to boast that they have played against the touring Lions.
“It will be a great event for us. I don’t think there are many who’ll get this kind of opportunity,” added Van Rooyen.
For young players like prop Nathan McBeth, flank MJ Pelser, lock Reinhard Nothnagel and centre Manny Rass it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity which they otherwise wouldn’t have got if the Lions didn’t get a tour match.
“For a lot of them it might be their only opportunity; that’s obviously big news,” said Van Rooyen. “Lions versus Lions, what more can you ask for.”
The last time the Lions toured South Africa back in 2009, the local Lions suffered a crushing defeat of 74-10.
But those were dark times for the team following the sacking of popular coach Eugene Eloff the week before the match and there being talk of the players boycotting the game.
“It will be a special day for Ellis Park. The pitch is looking great and it will be a massive honour for us to be involved there.”