x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

This Test is huge for me and all the team

It will be an emotional feeling when I lead out the side in Durban for the first Test against the Lions today.

It will be an emotional feeling when I lead out the side in Durban for the first Test against the Lions today. When I played against them 12 years ago for Natal Sharks, I dreamt I would get another chance. I was 19 then, just starting out, and for it to be happening now as the captain of the Boks is a feeling you can't describe. It's the reason I changed my whole life and came back to South Africa from playing in France; for this special event.

I've made big changes, personally and professionally, to play in these Tests and it's going to be huge for me. But it's going to be huge too for everyone and we will be ready. We have got quite an established group of guys who have been with each other for quite some time so that made things easier from a preparation point of view. I have seen their determination, not only now, but in the way they have approached and played in the Super 14s.

They put a huge amount of stock on how they played individually and with their teams and you can see that with the results, especially the Bulls winning the trophy. There have been times now I've had to bring them together for a bit of work and said: "I know you've had a long season, but we need to do this and that." And the response has been fantastic. I have to almost slow them down, calm them down, because they are looking forward to this series so much.

The only thing I don't like is the fact that everyone is expecting us to win. As a captain I worry about complacency and all those horrible words. The talking and build-up is the worst thing for me because my job is to make sure I keep my players focused. We had failure with the 1997 group and those in 1974. Those guys have had to live with that series defeat for a long time. It follows you around and we don't want that.

We want to make the most of this opportunity and look back fondly, with smiles and good stories, having won. I am really good friends with Gary Teichmann - he was my first captain - and he, Adrian Garvey and Russell Bennett, spent a couple of days with us last week and gave us our jerseys in a ceremony. They were guys who played a role in 1997 and they had their words of wisdom and told us the traps we should not fall into. Like how they might have scored more tries, but didn't win the series and that's what matters. Gary, who captained that side, told me his biggest regret was they were also lulled into this false sense of security in terms of being world champions, playing at home and just having to rock up and they would win.

I am wary of that the most. We have a formidable Lions team up against us, gaining momentum as they go with wins in every game. They have some fantastic players, especially Paul O'Connell, since taking on the responsibility as captain. It's never easy, but he has led from the front in the first few weeks. Brian O'Driscoll is another you admire, and he is showing the kind of magic that first made him special seven or eight years ago. Jamie Roberts is having an outstanding season at No 12 and Martyn Williams too. Their front row is their biggest weapon.

We are up against a tough unit and it's going to take a massive effort, just as much as it took when we won the World Cup in 2007. @Email:sports@thenational.ae