Cape Town – The Springboks are next due to host the British and Irish Lions in 2021.
A series that happens once every 12 years, a visit from the Lions is something that most players are lucky enough to experience only once in their career.
It is a tour that Robbie Fleck, who played 31 Tests for the Boks between 1999 and 2002, did not get to experience at the highest level with the Lions having toured South Africa in 1997 and 2009.
He knows, though, that playing against the Lions – whether at provincial or Test level – is something special.
With the news breaking on Thursday that World Rugby was looking at a drastic revamp to international rugby and the introduction of a ‘World League’, future Lions tours have all of a sudden been thrown into doubt.
The new structure would see 12 predetermined Test nations – South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy, France, Japan and the USA – play each other once each over the course of a calendar year.
The proposal has not gone down well with some of the game’s top players, but more importantly the birth of a ‘World League’ would effectively mean the death of tours from one Test country to another.
South Africa would no longer host any one country for an Inbound three-Test series in June, and with the scheduling demands of the World League, it is hard to see how there would be any time in the annual calendar for a Lions tour either.
Fleck, preparing for a clash between the Stormers and the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, obviously has more important issues to consider right now and it is hard to comment on a mere possibility at this stage.
As a former Springbok he does, however, understand the value of full Test tours.
“Inbound tours and Outbound tours are the favourites for players,” Fleck said at Newlands on Thursday.
“For me, as a player, going and being a part of a large group of 38 players to another country … I felt those were really special days, especially for young guys.
“Training with the Boks and being part of it are just some special times for any young kid to be a part of that set-up.”
Fleck said such tours still had immense worth to the global game.
“Tours are still important and valuable, if we just look at the British and Irish Lions,” he said.
“That is probably one of the most amazing tours to be a part of when they come here, whether you’re part of it as a Springbok or a provincial player, those are really special times.”