As appearing in Keo’s Corner in the Cape Times and IOL Sport
The spirit of Siya Kolisi’s triumphant Springbok Rugby World Cup winning Rainbow Warriors, is as strong today as it was close to a year ago when Kolisi led his squad and management around the country in thanks for the support and also to showcase world rugby’s golden nugget of a cup.
The absence of any rugby in South Africa since March this year because of Covid-19 has not dulled the love for the Springboks and also the appetite for the 2021 British & Irish Lions eight match tour of South Africa.
The Lions tour Ticket Sales Ballot went live earlier this week and South Africans spoke with their keyboards and with their wallets. Forget the social media trolls and narcissistic naysayers who wouldn’t be able to know light at a sunrise, this week has shown just how much love and passion there is for the Springboks and for rugby in this country.
Francois Pienaar’s 1995 World Cup-winning Springboks were dubbed the Rainbow Warriors for how they initially united a country behind a national sporting team. But it has only been in the past two years that the Springboks, led by Kolisi and coached by Rassie Erasmus, have truly been representative of a nation of Rainbow Warriors.
The British & Irish Lions only visit South Africa once every 12 years. For those not familiar with rugby, it is the only traditional-type tour left in professional rugby and the most prized tour to be a part of.
Many Springbok players have won the World Cup but never played against the Lions. Frans Steyn, brilliant for the Springboks 2007 World Cup triumph in France, is hoping to be the first Springbok in the professional era to play the Lions twice. Steyn was also a member of the victorious 2019 World Cup winning Springboks and was influential in the Springboks beating the Lions 2-1 in a three Test series in 2009.
Legendary Lions player and coach Ian McGeechan, when asked what made the Lions versus the Springboks in South Africa so special, responded that South Africa, as a nation, got the essence of the Lions, immersed themselves in the journey of the Lions, embraced the 30 000-plus Lions travelling supporters with unrivalled hospitality and got to experience the most incredibly diverse and culturally rich country.
Oh, and he added, the three Test matches were the equal of three World Cup finals.
Those versed in the history of the Lions will tell you 2021 is going to be a sporting carnival, the equal of which South Africa last experienced during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
South Africa, as a host nation, knows how to put on the biggest global sporting events. We’ve done it with soccer, rugby and cricket, and in 2023 Cape Town will be the host city to the first ever netball World Cup in Africa.
The Lions, as an event, is a global blockbuster.
South African sporting fans have acknowledged this and the response to the Ticket Ballot’s opening day is the most emphatic statement of what awaits the renowned ‘Sea of Red’ Lions supporters in South Africa in 2021.
The country, from the opening match against the DHL Stormers at the Cape Town Stadium on the 3rd July until the eighth and final match, which is the third Test against the Springboks in Johannesburg, will be immersed in green, gold and a sprinkling of red.
Every Springbok player has echoed the significance of playing and beating the Lions and every South African player who gets to play the Lions in the five non-Test matches has spoken of the privilege to be a part of this rugby extravaganza.
At a time when South Africa needs every ounce of support to tourism, the economy and mostly her people’s sanity, one of the most tantalizing prospects of 2021 is Siya’s Springboks taming the Lions.
And, judging by the public’s overwhelming response to the Ticket Ballot this week, I am not alone in understanding just what the Lions in 2021 will mean to this country of ours.
Ticket ballot registration is on www.lionstour2021.co.za