Two of the three Springbok Rugby World Cup winning hookers, Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx, are massively keen to face the British & Irish Lions when the famous red jerseys undertake their much-anticipated tour of South Africa in 2021.
The third member of the hooker-trio who helped South Africa to RWC glory in Japan in 2019, Schalk Brits, retired after the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for the third time in the International Stadium, Yokohama.
Speaking on the SA Rugby Podcast (on www.springboks.rugby, Spotify or Apple Podcasts), the 39-year-old Brits said he will have very keen interest in the tour, having represented English club Saracens for almost a decade after joining them from the Cape Town-based DHL Stormers in 2009.
The ever-smiling hooker played 15 Tests for the Springboks – three times as captain – and was the oldest member of the South African team in Japan last year. He said there is as much excitement building in the UK and Ireland for next year’s tour.
“Firstly, forget about rugby! South Africa is an amazing country to come and visit,” said Brits.
“We are spoiled (for choice here) and South Africans in general are great people. They’re warm, open and friendly.
“Then, secondly, with all the tourism (offerings) in our country – from the beaches to the wildlife and beautiful natural scenes – coming here is just phenomenal. So just looking at that, it is an amazing place to visit.”
Looking at the schedule of eight matches, which includes three Tests, Brits reckons the tourists will view their trip as “payback time” after they suffered a 2-1 series defeat in 2009, which was also the last time a British & Irish Lions time lost a series.
“Combining what we have to offer here in South Africa with rugby is massive. The Lions are a very special outfit, a Lions tour only comes around every 12 years in South Africa, so from that perspective, it’s very exciting,” said Brits.
“I know the UK boys are frothing at the mouth to come and play here for the Lions against South Africa. I think they will view it as payback time for the previous Lions tour defeat.
“For them, playing the Rugby World Cup winners in South Africa will be an exciting challenge and I think they will be a very dangerous outfit.”
Mbonambi, who started the RWC playoff matches in the No 2 jersey but sadly had to leave the field in the final early due to an injury, was still at school when the Lions visited South Africa in 2009.
“I was in high school and watched all the games on TV because unfortunately, I couldn’t attend any of the matches,” said Mbonambi.
“I still have memories of guys such as ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, Bryan Habana and all those legendary Springboks in action against the Lions. I made it my goal to (one day) be part of something special like that.
“I think it is the goal of every South African rugby player to be play against the Lions.”
The powerful Marx is just as excited for next year’s tour.
“My biggest memory of the 2009 Lions tour was when Jaque Fourie scored in the corner (at Loftus Versfeld) to clinch the series,” he said.
“The tour only comes around every 12 years for us here in South Africa, so it will be a great honour for me to play against them and to experience that.”
The first three podcasts, which feature Rassie Erasmus, Branco du Preez, Aled Walters, Jacques Nienaber, Cheslin Kolbe and Handre Pollard, can be accessed here.