Mark Andrews enjoyed a stellar Springbok career, but the legendary Sharks lock is still haunted by the series defeat in 1997 to the British and Irish Lions.
The Boks lost that series 2-1, and after they went on to make amends in 2009 by beating the tourists 2-1, Andrews now hopes next year’s tour will materialise in order for the rivalry to continue.
“Looking ahead to next year, I hope the pandemic can blow over,” Andrews, who played 77 Tests between 1994 and 2002, said in an interview on the SA Rugby podcast.
“If there is one series that I think is even bigger than a series between the Springboks and the All Blacks, it’s between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions.”
South Africa lost the first two Tests against the Lions on their 1997 tour – by 25-16 in Cape Town and 18-15 in Durban – which handed the tourists the series victory, before the Boks won the third ‘dead rubber’ clash 35-16 at Ellis Park.
Andrews recalled the SA Rugby Union’s decision to appoint Bok icons Carel du Plessis and Gert Smal to coach the national side, but he admitted he still had bitter memories of the tour.
“There are not many things I regret in my career. I was lucky enough to win the World Cup, Tri-Nations and Currie Cup, but one of my saddest moments was the 1997 Lions tour,” Andrews said.
“Losing to the Lions was frustrating for me because in my opinion that wasn’t the best side to come here, but we were in such turmoil as a team.
“We should have won convincingly. It became a very unhappy period in my life, and I regret it. It wasn’t a happy time for me or for South African rugby supporters.”
Though it remained unclear who would be available or in form next year, Andrews believed a strong enough squad could be built to hold off an expected onslaught from the tourists.
“I would like to think that the guys will
know what it will take to win, and that we will have a core group of players from last year’s World Cup win who will be guiding our side next year,” he said.
“I just hope the culture and ethos of what it takes to be a successful Springbok is instilled in the players next year, and if that is the case, I’m sure it will be a great series.”
The 48-year-old Andrews, who was the first Springbok to reach 50 Test caps, started in the first two Tests against the Lions in 1997.
While he missed out on the third and final encounter due to injury, he had taken on the might of the touring side, and he expected them to deliver some spectacular battles once again.
“It’s always a phenomenal series against the British and Irish Lions.
It’s probably second only to a World Cup,” he said.
“For a spectator it’s phenomenal. You’ve got those crazy Lions fans coming out here, and they will give it everything. The stadiums are packed and there is a huge amount of vibe and atmosphere.”