The Lions are heading back to South Africa after a tough introduction to the United Rugby Championship saw them complete a four week tour of Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
The team walked away with only one win after a barnstorming first half in their opening match against Zebre, before they lost heavily to Scarlets and then put in two better showings in losses against Glasgow Warriors and Ulster.
“I think it (the tour) just gave the guys belief. No one really gave us a chance,” said Lions captain Burger Odendaal.
“When we came on tour I don’t think anyone expected us to even beat Zebre in the first game, so I think it has spurred some belief in the guys just to actually see that we can compete against the best teams in the competition.
“We had some tough conditions, it was a new experience playing on some different (4G) pitches, so the guys can only grow from this experience.”
Despite a poor performance against Scarlets, the Lions were arguably the better team against Glasgow and could have walked away with a win there, while their last game against Ulster could have been a much closer affair if it wasn’t for some basic errors.
The team should take heart from those last two results and build on it as they return to SA.
“It’s been a massive tour for us – not the results we wanted but I feel there was improvement,” Odendaal said.
“Let’s leave the Scarlets game out, but after that there was improvement every single week.
“We are not happy or satisfied but I think we are starting to get that belief in what we are doing, that we can actually put teams under pressure.
“Ulster is one of the top teams in the competition and I felt we gave them a run for their money, with glimpses of great moments, and then a couple of errors crept in.”
The Lions will now enjoy a well deserved two-week break before they get to host their first two matches in the URC against Cardiff and Munster, where they will hope to claim another win in at least one of the games.
“I am very excited to go back and now some of these teams have to come play us in the Highveld, and it’s just another opportunity for us to grow,” the skipper said.
“It’s not going to be easy for teams to come to Joburg, especially in November/December time. It’s going to be hot and we know it’s always a struggle to breath in the Highveld, so hopefully we can put teams under a similar situation that we were in on tour.”