Andy Powell tackled by Jaco van der Westhuizen during the British and Irish Lions’ tour match against the Southern Kings at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth on 16 June 2009. (Gallo Images)
- With the British and Irish Lions tour confirmed to be going ahead as planned, the Sharks are excited to feature in the traditional “midweek” game.
- The Lions board and SA Rugby confirmed that the tour would take place in South Africa, ending speculation that the UK would play host.
- The 2020 and 2021 rugby calendars have seen their most drastic alteration since professional rugby’s inception a quarter of a century ago.
Now that the British and Irish Lions tour is going ahead as planned in South Africa this winter, the Sharks are excited at the prospect of confronting the tourists.
The Lions board and SA Rugby confirmed this week that plans are afoot to host the tour in the country as per the original schedule, despite heavy doubts over fan participation.
The possible lack of spectators hasn’t dimmed the Sharks’ light, however, and head coach Sean Everitt said his men were thrilled at the chance to play rugby’s most famous tourists.
The Sharks face the Lions in what was traditionally a “midweek game” on Saturday, 10 July at Kings Park. Players not part of the select Springbok group will at least get a taste of what it’s like to be involved in the occasion.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Everitt.
“When the tour was in doubt the players were talking about [possibly] not having that opportunity.
“They come around once every 12 years and you’ve got to be pretty lucky to have a shot at them.
“It’s exciting time for the management and players at the Sharks to get an opportunity to play against the British and Irish Lions.
“It’s a game that will create memories for a lifetime and certainly one that will create memories for every individual.
“Yes, we’re looking forward to that.”
The 2020 and 2021 rugby calendars have seen their most drastic alteration since professional rugby’s inception a quarter of a century ago.
There’s been much trepidation and anxiety about South Africa moving its franchises from the Southern Hemisphere (Super Rugby) to the north (Rainbow Cup).
Soon after the Rainbow Cup, the Currie Cup will start earlier than in former years, while the Springboks will shoot from the Lions tour into the Rugby Championship and possibly the end-of-year tour.
With the bulk of the focus on making sure the Springboks, who haven’t played a Test since battling England at Yokohama in 2019, Everitt doesn’t see the schedule as much of a disturbance to the franchise.
Everitt believes the packed international window will allow him to play more of his promising youngsters, many of whom are threatening to tear the first XV door down.
“It’s an interesting year,” he said.
“If the Springboks take a large squad into a bubble for the British and Irish Lions, here in South Africa, it’s going to put pressure on the depth of our squads, which is good because it creates opportunities for the youngsters we have.
“At the same time, the preparation series has allowed us to play these youngsters and give them opportunities and they’ve all come through with flying colours and we’re happy about where we are with our squad depth.
“It will be a good experience for the youngsters to make the step up to the Currie Cup. As we know, the Rainbow Cup will finish and the Currie Cup will start that same week.
“Either way, all the squads will be pushed but it will be a great opportunity for the teams playing in the PRO16 (Rainbow Cup) to create more depth within their groups.”