The 2009 British & Irish Lions have already given South African rugby a major boost according to Sharks skipper Johann Muller.
The man who led the Natal-based side to the Currie Cup title last season, and who is expected to lead them into next month’s Super 14 campaign, believes the attraction of the Lions will help cure the Springboks’ World Cup hangover of 2008.
"There is no doubt that we suffered a World Cup hangover last year. While the Aussie and Kiwi teams hit the ground running in the Super 14, our teams were left in the starting blocks," Muller told The Mercury in Durban.
"But this year is like a World Cup year. A British & Irish Lions tour is very special and all our players are very excited about it. A lot of senior players have been hanging on for the chance to play the Lions.
“Compared to Australia and New Zealand, we have lost relatively few players to Europe – certainly far less than usual."
Muller’s Sharks side face the Lons in Durban on Wednesday, 10 June and the skipper is happy with the stability in his squad.
"It really is a very settled and happy squad. Last year we got so much right in terms of the team ethic,” said Muller.
“If you have a happy rugby player, you have a good rugby player. And with so few newcomers to the squad, we don’t have to work through that process again of building the team.
“Everybody who is here desperately wants to do well for the Sharks."
The Sharks have lost B J Botha (Ulster), Bradley Barritt (Saracens), AJ Venter (Western Province) and Frederic Michalak (Toulouse), but welcome back World Cup winning skipper John Smit.
Smit, along with Jannie du Plessis, will play mostly at tight head in place of Botha.