- Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick reminisced about facing the British & Irish Lions in 2009.
- Stick, who played for the Blitzboks, was part of the Southern Kings side at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
- The British & Irish Lions are scheduled to tour South Africa with the first game against the Stormers in Cape Town.
Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick describes facing the British & Irish Lions as one of the best days of his playing career and says he can't wait for next year's series to kick off.
Back in May 2009, Stick was a fleet-footed 24-year-old playmaker who captained the Springbok Sevens team to their first World Rugby Sevens Series title after playing in five out of eight finals, and winning three tournaments.
A couple of months after lifting the trophy in Edinburgh, the Blitzbok playmaker found himself in a new team environment as part of the Southern Kings side that prepared to face the British & Irish Lions in their sixth match of the 2009 tour to South Africa.
The experienced Alan Solomons was appointed to coach the Kings, then an invitational side comprising players returning from overseas clubs, a couple of players from the Bulls (they didn't play the Lions in 2009) and a bunch of local lads from the Eastern Cape.
"At that time, I was still playing for the Blitzboks, but I received a call from Mr Solomons and he asked me to play that game," Stick told the SA Rugby website.
"Myself and Mpho Mbiyozo, who was with me at the Springbok Sevens team, just could not say no to this opportunity.
"There was one thing that made it very special to me - to play in front of our supporters in Port Elizabeth. It's the place that made me who I am, and it's very close to my heart.
"We had the likes of De Wet Barry, a great Springbok, Solly Tyibilika and Francois Hougaard - a lot of great players, and for me, as a youngster, it was very special to rub shoulders with these guys."
Blitzboks captain Mpho Mbiyozo ended up scoring the Southern Kings' only try in front of a crowd of 36 000 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, where the British & Irish Lions won a tough tussle by 20-8.
"It was 11 years ago, but I remember everything from that game," said Stick, who came off the bench early in the second half.
"Many players don't get the opportunity (of playing against the Lions), but for me, even after retiring, it always brought a smile to my face."
Stick said next year's tour of the Lions would be very tough and that there might be thoughts of revenge from the northern hemisphere after the Springboks' Rugby World Cup triumph last year.
"We are the current RWC champions - we beat England in the final and Wales in the semi-final, so they are going to come hard for us. It will be like revenge," said Stick.
"We're certainly not expecting anything light. The northern hemisphere sides are very strong at the moment - all of those teams are very tough, and we'll make sure that we're ready for that challenge."
The eight-game tour kicks off on Saturday, 3 July 2021 when the Lions play the Stormers at Cape Town Stadium.
The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.
Full 2021 tour schedule:
- Saturday 3 July: British & Irish Lions v Stormers - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
- Wednesday 7 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa 'Invitational' - Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
- Saturday 10 July: British & Irish Lions v Sharks - Kings Park, Durban
- Wednesday 14 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa "A" Team - Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
- Saturday 17 July: British & Irish Lions v Bulls - Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
- Saturday 24 July (first Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions - FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
- Saturday 31 July (second Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
- Saturday 7 August (third Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions - Ellis Park, Johannesburg
- SA Rugby