The South African verdict

With the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa now less than a month away, we assess the mood among Springboks greats of the past and present. [more]

The South African verdict

With the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa now less than a month away, we assess the mood among Springboks greats of the past and present. took the views of four former internationals and a current Springbok star to gain a greater understanding of the South African psyche ahead of the most-eagerly anticipated sporting event of the year.

Here’s how they see the series panning out…

The old boys’ verdict
Morne du Plessis

One of South Africa’s greatest rugby players and leaders, Morne du Plessis made 22 appearances for the Springboks between 1971 and 1980, losing only four times – twice against the 1974 Lions. 

The No8 captained the 1980 Boks to a 3-1 series victory over the Lions before retiring from international rugby.

Du Plessis then went on to manage the 1995 Springbok World Cup winning squad in what is widely recognised as one of the greatest moments in South African sporting history.

"I think we’ve got a fantastic team at the moment. We are settled, we’ve got consistent selection, I’m sure we’ll take much of last year’s team into the series and our players are showing good form in the Super 14’s.

"I think we’re in for a sporting spectacle."

Rob Louw

Springbok flanker Rob Louw gained 19 caps for his country and played in the 1980 team that beat the Lions.

The Western Province favourite started all four internationals against Bill Beaumont’s Lions, scoring a try in each of the first two Tests.

In total, Louw scored five tries for his country before ending his Springbok career in 1984.

Louw then joined Wigan Rugby League Club where he played alongside 2009 Lions defence coach Shaun Edwards.

"The Lions have got a coach called Shaun Edwards who I played with for Wigan. We played many, many games together and I knew him very, very well.

"I had a long talk with him when he was with the Welsh side the last time they were out here. He’s a clever bugger! He knows what he’s doing on the rugby field defensively. I think the Lions will bring a really good side.

"There’s a lot of South African players that are waiting for the opportunity but I’ve heard from many of the players that they are just waiting for the Lions then they’re looking to move elsewhere afterwards. For them it is a major thing to beat the Lions."

Naas Botha

Naas Botha kicked the Springboks to victory against the 1980 Lions earning him the nickname ‘Nasty Booter’ from the British and Irish press. 

Having registered 312 points for his country, Botha is the second-highest scorer in Springbok history behind Percy Montgomery despite having only won 28 caps between 1980 and 1992.

The ex-Northern Transvaal and Rovigo fly-half, is a former Bok captain who also led the highly-successful Northern Transvaal region on a record-breaking 128 occasions.

Botha scored an incredible 2,511 points for Northern Transvaal and was so prolific with the boot that former Springbok coach Dr Danie Craven once claimed, ‘Give me Naas and I’ll conquer the world’.


Naas Botha thinks the Boks will have too much quality for the Lions

"Overall there was some good quality in the Six Nations but not the best we’ve seen.
"Mike Phillips is the best scrum-half – he is such a strong player. The Lions are nicely equipped at half-back with him and either Stephen Jones or Ronan O’Gara but I would be very surprised if we don’t walk away with this one.

"The year after the Springboks won the World Cup a number of them didn’t really play all that well, but you can understand that. But this year I must say the outstanding players in the Super 14 so far are actually our Springboks – that’s a good omen for us.

"From 1980 to 1996 we had some fantastic Springboks, but they never had an opportunity to play against the Lions. Many players don’t get that on their CV. I believe the players know that, and that’s why they’re hanging around and want to make it a big one.

"A Lions tour is so special for South Africa because of its history and its tradition."

Charl Marais

Springbok hooker Charl Marais played for Orange Free State in one of the provincial games against the 1997 Lions before making his South African debut against Italy in 1999.

He scored a try on his international debut, before going on to make a further 10 Test appearances in a Bok jersey before being overhauled by current skipper John Smit.

"The good thing about the Springboks at the moment is that we can play any game.

"We can play a forward-based game, we can play an expansive game, we can play a kicking game.

"We’re just fortunate that, at this point in time, we’ve got a team that can adjust to any circumstance, any given day and any game pattern that they want to play."

The current crop

Bryan Habana

The South African winger made his Test debut for the Springboks against England at Twickenham in 2004, scoring a try with his first touch of the ball. 

The 2007 IRB Player of the Year has made 46 test appearances for his country so far, scoring 32 tries and is expected to be one of the Springbok dangermen ahead of the three-match series against Ian McGeechan’s tourists.

"Your hair is standing on end that little bit more and it creates that little bit more excitement.

"You want to go out there and hopefully do well and make it a success. 

"Its going to be exciting, it’s going to be intense, and hopefully we’ll be able to make it one of the best Lions occasions that the world of rugby has ever seen."

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