The British and Irish Lions tour has officially got underway. The team is comprised of players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with tours occurring every four years and rotating between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in order. It is no wonder then that it is such a momentous occasion, and a highlight for many players, who may only, if they are lucky, get to experience playing against the Lions once in their careers.
The Lions were initially known as the Shaw and Shrewsbury Team, comprised primarily of English players with a smattering of Scottish and Welsh players, before changing their name to the British Isles. On their 1950 tour of New Zealand and Australia they officially adopted the name British Lions, the nickname first used by British and South African journalists on the 1924 South African tour after the lion emblem on their ties, the emblem on their jerseys having been dropped in favour of the four-quartered badge with the symbols of the four represented unions.
The South Africa national rugby union team, or the Springboks, is of course South Africa’s national rugby team, and actually played their first test match against a British Isles touring team in 1891. The Springbok emblem was first introduced in 1906, although since 1992 the protea has been displayed on team jerseys alongside the springbok, and used as the official emblem on blazers and caps. In 2019, South Africa won a third World Cup title, and up until this past weekend had not played a single game of rugby since beating England in the final, so have been unbeaten for a year and a half!
Covid has unfortunately stepped onto the rugby field and played a significant impact – effectively red carding all spectators and resulting in a continued lack of international visitors. This is incredibly sad as games are now played in an empty veld, much like where lions and springboks live their natural lives. It also means that for many hospitality businesses that were counting on international visitors, including safari lodges like Thanda Safari, the planes (plains) remain empty with little sign of recovery and turn-around.
One of the questions we often get asked while on safari is why aren’t there any springboks at Thanda Safari. This is simply because they are not naturally found in KwaZulu Natal, with springboks inhabiting the dry areas of south and southwestern Africa, extending from north-western South Africa through the Kalahari desert into Namibia and Botswana. In South Africa, they are mainly found in the North West as well as the grasslands of the Free State and the shrublands of the Karoo, where they feed primarily on shrubs and succulents although will also eat grass. They are not dependent on water, as they are able to meet their water needs from the food they eat.
Springbok are incredibly fast antelope, able to run up to 90 kilometers an hour, and are hunted by a number of predators including cheetah, wild dog, leopard, and, unsurprisingly, lions. With The British and Irish Lions tour culminating in three games against the Springboks on the 24th July, 31st July, and 7th August, it is sure to be a tasty affair!
Love from Thanda Safari