Sharks loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe believes the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour has managed to uplift the spirit of local players after what has been a tough period for them.
After a lot of doubts, the tour now looks more certain with the Lions’ coach Warren Gatland set to announce his touring squad on Wednesday.
The Lions’ tour will start in July and be concluded in August in South Africa.
Local players have not been able to play against their international rivals because of the deadly Covid-19, which forced cancellation of some tournaments.
Most recently, the much-awaited Rainbow Cup cross-hemisphere fixtures against European counterpart were called off as South African franchises couldn’t be granted entry in to the United Kingdom. This subjected local players to another locals only competition which came as a huge disappointment to players and coaches.
However, the hunger to play against the touring Lions has definitely given players the motivation to give their all in the local version of the Rainbow Cup.
Notshe said there’s no rugby player who doesn’t want to be in the Springbok side that will jostle the touring Lions in a spectacle that happens once in every 12 years.
“Everybody wants to be in the squad to play against the Lions tour,” said Notshe.
“We have had alignment camps and things were put out there, which I won’t share, about what is expected of us as rugby players.
“Everybody wants to play. I mean this thing only comes around every 12 years, it a generational thing,” said the No.8.
“If you miss it, you miss, and some players have had it and some players have not had it. so, it’s a huge honour for us.”
Lions of Johannesburg
While the British and Irish Lions are only coming in July, the Lions of Johannesburg will be at Kings Park Stadium on Saturday for the Rainbow Cup fixture against the Sharks at 4 pm.
Notshe and his teammates know very well that’s not going to be an easy match as the Lions lost their first outing of the competition against the Bulls while Sharks defeated the Stormers.
“To be honest with you, I’m worried about the Golden Lions that are coming this weekend,” said Notshe on Tuesday.
Sharks v Lions — 4 pm
Stormers v Bulls — 6.15 pm
“If I don’t play well on Saturday, nothing will guarantee me that I will play for the Boks against the British and Irish Lions. But I won’t lie to and say it’s not something we are looking forward to.”
Though they won against the Stormers, the Sharks didn’t play well, and their set-piece play will need to improve against the men from Egoli.
“They (Lions) are different to the Stormers, but they are also a very physical team, and we have to respect them,” said Note.
“If you don’t respect the Lions, they will come out here (and embarrass you). I think in the Super Rugby Unlocked they showed us what they can do in the second 40 minutes.”