Springbok skipper John Smit says the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa is the major talking point for all his country’s Test and aspiring Test players.
The hooker cum prop forward is in line to lead the world champions against the best of the four Home Unions in less than four months time and he freely admits that the tour is the shining light on the Springbok calendar.
"If I look at the Sharks and in my talks with the other Springboks, it is clear that this (the Lions) tour is the biggest driving force since the 2007 World Cup for us," said Smit, who lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy in Paris 16 months ago.
Smit returned to his homeland this summer after a brief spell in France with Clermont Auvergne and, despite the fact that the new Super 14 season has just got under way, the 30-year-old is already beginning to focus on the visit of Ian McGeechan’s Lions.
Smit’s decision to quit Europe for Currie Cup and Super 14 action centred around his desire to face the Lions this summer and that burning ambition to avenge the Boks’ 1997 series defeat to the Lions comes across whenever he discusses the tour.
His excitement at the prospect of adding the Lions’ scalp to World Cup glory is particularly apparent when he states that South Africans currently playing overseas "will rob themselves of the opportunity to play against the world’s best players" when the Lions arrive in town.
"As hard as you train to ensure your team has a wonderful Super 14, there’s always a thought in the back of your mind that the Lions are coming," Smit told South African newspaper Sondag.
"It is unbelievable to be a South African rugby player at the moment.
"It is also one of the most challenging periods for any player aspiring to face the Lions with so many players who are putting up their hands at the moment.”