The Springbok skipper has had almost a dozen years to reflect on the series defeat, something he has no intention of repeating when his next chance presents itself.
A 19-year-old Smit never made the 1997 Test team, but was a replacement in the Natal side that were defeated 42-12 by Ian McGeechan's men.
Smit and his peers were up against a rampant Lions side that went on to win the series by two Tests to one, a fact that still troubles the man who lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy last year.
"The only tour that really counts for us was the 1997 tour when we lost," he said.
"That is a memory we have had to live with for a long time.
"The Lions is a really important event in the South African rugby calendar because it only comes around once every 12 years.
"It's a benchmark and a wonderful opportunity to play a great team and test yourself in a three-match series."
Despite not being part of the Test side 11 years ago, the 1997 tour defeat hurt so badly that Smit gave up his spell in the foreign legion at Clermont Auverge last season so that he could have one last shot at the Lions before retirement.
"I made a massive decision to end my time in France and play in South Africa so I could play in this tour," he said.
"That is how much it means to me and to everyone who has done the same."
After successfully defeating Wales, Scotland and England in this season's autumn internationals, Smit's side now have seven months until their next Test, and that will be against the Lions.
"The wonderful thing about the Lions tour that the crème of the crop of the four Home Unions are put together and told to 'go get them'. It will be a stern challenge we will have to front up for."
"It's very important for us to pick the best possible Springbok team to face the Lions so that the memories we have are good, and not sad ones."