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Habana: Lions tour will have extra spice

The Lions are scheduled to play the Springboks in July next year and will be on South African shores for the first time since 2009.

FILE: Former Springbok wing Bryan Habana. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Former Springbok winger and 2007 Rugby World Cup winner, Bryan Habana believes that next year’s incoming tour against the British and Irish Lions will have an added edge to it.

The Lions are scheduled to play the Springboks in July next year and will be on South African shores for the first time since 2009.

Habana was part of the squad that claimed a 2-1 series victory, scoring a try in a nail-biting 28-25 win in the second test.

Speaking to EWN Sport on Thursday, Habana said playing against the Lions was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“There are some test centurions that never got afforded opportunity and privilege to play against the Lions. It is incredible, it is massive and for many, it’s a once in a career opportunity. I think given the success of that Springbok side in the 2019 World Cup, we go into the series for the third time in a row as world champions,” he said.

“What I do think is going to happen is that there could potentially be a bit of added spice given that Warren Gatland is vying to become the first coach to not lose a Lions series, after the success in Australia and the draw in New Zealand. They're going to want to take this title of series champions back next year,” he said.

With rugby set to return in New Zealand on 13 June, Habana feels that the impact the extended break due to the coronavirus has had on players fitness will only be really felt once they start playing competitive games.

“Not one athlete in forever has had to deal with something like this. It's going to be very interesting to see how players and rugby players in particular come out of this. You need to get your body - not only physically - but mentally fit to start playing games so teams might have to go through another preseason because as hard as they have been working, the physicality of rugby is not something players can just jump straight into,” he said.

Habana has been retired since 2018 but has been keeping busy since then in an ambassadorial role for a number of brands and projects. His latest project is the launch of MatchKit.co, a website builder that automatically integrates into existing social media channels to allow athletes to consolidate their posts and potentially increase their revenue.

Habana said this was the perfect time to launch the initiative.

“I think the timing of accelerating the release during the pandemic is something that was on top of our priority list. Sport has been profoundly impacted not only physically but financially you know, with so many players taking pay cuts and I think with MatchKit.co, we're offering them the opportunity to commercialise and potentially sell videos and voice notes and in so doing, keep their brand alive. We’ve also seen a lot of athletes playing their part during this pandemic and raise funds during this time. So this also gives them a chance to partner with people and companies who are in a position to help out,” he said.