Just as they are now, the Boks were world champions 12 years ago but they slipped to an unexpected defeat at the hands of a under-rated Lions side coached by Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer.
De Villiers, who took control of the Boks in January 2008, is determined to ensure that his charges do not follow a similar fate.
"The purpose was to get the 1997 Boks to share their experience and discuss where we can learn and make sure we improve our chances of success against the Lions," said de Villiers.
"They also highlighted what makes a Lions series different and what it meant to them as players to face the Lions. They also handed jerseys to our guys as a symbolic gesture of their support."
Those sentiments were echoed by skipper John Smit, the man who will lead his country into action on June 20, 27 and July 4, more than a decade after first taking on the Lions as a Natal replacement on the last tour to the Republic.
"These were the last guys to have faced the Lions and it was great to get an insight into their experiences," explained Smit.
"They also gave us some pointers on what to expect and how we might do certain things that will aid our preparations and performance. It was fantastic that they were able to join us."
Having missed out on his chance to defeat the Lions last time out, the head coach of the 1997 Springboks Carel du Plessis believes the class of 2009 can finally avenge the hurt he and the whole of South Africa experienced during his time in charge of the national side.
"Peter has a fantastic group of players at his disposal with strength in every position," said du Plessis.
"The outcome of the series in 1997 was disappointing and hopefully we were able to pass on advice that will be useful as they prepare for the upcoming series.
"It is shaping up to be an interesting contest and we are certain the Boks will give a good account of themselves."
In total, 21 players who faced the Lions with the Boks 12 years ago attended the get together alongside du Plessis.
They included current Springbok kicking coach Percy Montgomery, ex-captain Gary Teichman, former Newcastle lock Mark Andrews and world-renowned scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen.