Schalk Burger says there’s no room for complacency when the incumbent Springbok team get their once-in-a-lifetime shot at Lions.
The Lions hype began as early as last November when the Boks toured the UK. Experts and former players were coming out of the woodwork to give their views on the 2009 series, and predictably, the UK-based scribes were punting the Lions to win.
The Springbok players are aware of the significance of this series. Unlike the Tri-Nations or World Cup, the Lions series comes around once in a career. Players like Burger are determined to make the most of that opportunity and in doing so leave their mark on Springbok history.
‘After the World Cup it’s the biggest event in rugby, but the fact that it happens every 12 years makes it even more special,’ Burger told keo.co.za. ‘I was at Newlands for the first Lions Test in 1997 as a 14-year-old schoolboy. I never dreamed I’d have this kind of opportunity. Now that I have it, I’m definitely not going to waste it.’
Players from that 1997 series have already passed on a word of caution to the next generation. The Lions surprised everybody with their direct and physical approach 12 years ago, but Burger reckons there will be no surprises this time round.
‘It’s proper Test rugby, and if you say they’re going to be physical, well, we wouldn’t expect anything else from the Lions.
‘We are fortunate to have a group of players that have been together for a long time. There is still work to be done and we just need to make sure we prepare properly in the weeks leading up to the first Test.’
Coach Peter de Villiers will meet with the available Bok players on Monday as they begin their training regime. The last time the Boks were together as a squad was in November when they beat England 42-6 at Twickenham.
Some sectors feel the clean sweep over Wales, Scotland and England bodes well for the coming series, but Burger dismissed these claims.
‘That was six months ago and when the Lions tour things will be different. For one, we’re playing in South Africa. We’re also playing against a different team.’
Burger missed the Stormers’ last two league games due to a calf tear, and is undergoing rehabilitation with the aim of playing against a Namibia XV in Windhoek next week.
Jean de Villiers, another Stormers casualty, could also feature in this match.
By Jon Cardinelli