British & Irish Lions

Habana tells Lions to beware emotionally-driven Springboks

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Bryan Habana at Loftus against the Lions in 2009 (Gallo)
Bryan Habana at Loftus against the Lions in 2009 (Gallo)

South Africa great Bryan Habana has warned the British and Irish Lions they will be up against a side bound together by more than rugby when they face the world champion Springboks.

The Lions play Japan in a curtain raiser in Edinburgh on Saturday before heading to South Africa, with the first of three Tests at Cape Town on 24 July.

Siya Kolisi, who made history as South Africa's first black captain before leading the Springboks to World Cup glory in Japan two years ago, endured childhood hunger.

"I was fortunate enough to be in Japan and I got pretty emotional the week leading up to the final, talking about the Siya Kolisi story," said former wing Habana, a member of the South Africa side that won the 2007 World Cup.

"Talking about Siya having to watch the 2007 final in a shebeen, a local pub in the rural townships, because his grandmother didn't have a TV.

"He wasn't worrying about the rugby, he went to school the next day not for education but just to get a meal because that was going to be his only meal for the day.

"It's something that if you don't understand it's very difficult to relay."

Habana added: "I do think the Lions have a unique history, and the players that represent that want to do the jersey proud.

"But as Rassie Erasmus (South Africa's World Cup-winning coach) aptly put it, pressure is not playing for your country, pressure is knowing where your next meal is coming from."

Habana, speaking on behalf of former Wales star Gareth Thomas's Tackle HIV initiative, was nevertheless well aware that the Lions would have plenty of motivation of their own.

"Yes it is emotive, but in the same vein, I know the Lions will want to come to South Africa as the team did in 1997 and do something as amazing as beating the Rugby World Cup champions," he said.

"And I hope that will make for an extra spicy series, but for me it's the legacy beyond that, the likes of Siya Kolisi and Makazole Mapimpi, whose stories resonate with 70 percent of our population, stories that are so powerful and so much more emotive."

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