The Lions were pretty big-mouthed in '09, Victor Matfield recalls in conversation with Lukhanyo Am

Springbok lock Victor Matfield in action during the third Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions at Ellis Park on 4 July 2009.
Springbok lock Victor Matfield in action during the third Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions at Ellis Park on 4 July 2009.
Stu Forster/Getty Images
  • The 2021 British and Irish Lions tour now holds added value because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Victor Matfield says the British and Irish Lions were pretty big-mouthed when they landed in SA in 2009.
  • In the second Test, Matfield saw his home ground Loftus almost 80% covered in red, as there were so many visiting supporters.

Next year's British and Irish Lions tour has taken on greater significance after the Covid-19 pandemic brought the global sporting calendar to a halt.

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Not that it needed it, but the Lions tour has the added narrative of coming a couple of years after the Springboks beat England in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan last year.

Former Springbok lock Victor Matfield, who had the honour of winning both the William Webb Ellis trophy and beating the Lions in 2009 told Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am about what it would feel like when the Brits landed in SA.

"If you have to compare the World Cup and the Lions tour, I had four opportunities to be at the World Cup, won it once, but the Lions tour was special because most players only get one opportunity if they even get that," said Matfield on Puma South Africa's Instagram page.

"But thinking back, when they arrived for that first Test match they were pretty big-mouthed.

"They said Bakkies (Botha) and myself were older and all that stuff. But we just had a thing were we said we were the world champs and we want to show you guys.

"We went out and smashed them in Durban but they were still in the game for the most part.

"Then we went to Pretoria, at Loftus, my home ground. I was sitting in my room a few hours before the game and looking at the TV, they were already there and the only thing you could see were their supporters in red. You thought you were in England. There were hardly any South Africans.

"It's strange facing a team in South Africa but you get to the stand and it's almost 80% of their British supporters. But I must say, it was amazing playing them. Winning the World Cup and playing the British and Irish Lions, it doesn't get better than that."

Under then coach Peter de Villiers, the Boks beat the tourists 26-21 at Kings Park and sealed a close one, 28-25, at Loftus Versfeld. At Ellis Park, though, the Lions signed off with an emphatic 28-9 victory.

Next year's tour, which could be moved to later in 2021 depending on how the current pandemic affects global travel, is expected to run along similarly tight lines.

Am, one of the mainstays of the World Cup-winning Springboks of 2019, was salivating at the prospect of being part of the iconic tour.

"It’s always there at the back of your head," he said.

"The British and Irish Lions tour comes only every 12 years and we are very fortunate to potentially have an opportunity to be there next year.

"We are really looking forward to it and I hope this pandemic won’t disturb or block us from playing it."

- Compiled by Sibusiso Mjikeliso

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