Dan Biggar has been here before.
Four years ago, the Welsh fly-half experienced the week building up to the first Test on the wrong side of proceedings – as one of the unfortunate Lions tourists who didn’t quite make the matchday squad.
So close, yet ultimately so far.
Since then, Biggar has been on a mission to get back to this week – only this time with the odds stacked in his favour.
In that regard, he’s in a good place.
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He’s been the form fly-half of this Lions tour and, while he’d never admit it himself, it certainly feels like his name will be mentioned in that starting XV come Thursday.
But, the 31-year-old knows nothing can be taken for granted as the mood in camp naturally changes as the Test series races towards them.
“I’m very excited,” he said when asked about being back in the week of the first Test.
“We have got through the first few weeks, obviously there have been a few ups and downs with a bit of isolation and the Covid situation but generally the group is really excited and there is a little bit of nerves around the place around selection and who is going to get the nod and bits and pieces like that.
“There is a little bit of a different feel about the place. Gats probably would have finalised selection last night. Gats is the type who doesn’t do things by the book so he might keep it for a little bit later on in the week.
“We haven’t got a timescale of when he is telling us yet but that is what I mean by boys are a little bit more anxious around knowing that the team is coming at some point. But also there is lots of excitement as well.
“This time around, for as far back as I can remember from the tours I have watched or been involved in is probably as open for selection. That is probably why there is lots of excitement and a bit of nerves around as well.”
The disappointment of missing out on a Test spot four years ago has only strengthened Biggar’s desire to achieve his dreams, but in truth, those hopes have been brewing for two decades.
Growing up in Gowerton, a 12-year-old Biggar was exposed to just how special the Lions are – thanks to Brian O’Driscoll waltzing past the Wallabies in Brisbane.
“That was my first real memory – that 1st Test – I think it was in the Gabba?” added Biggar.
“That is when you realise that you plan your whole week or your whole day around the game. I remember having breakfast and watching that.
“It’s surreal knowing that whoever is involved on Saturday, that is what everyone in the UK is going to be doing on Saturday. Their whole day is going to be based around 6pm, or 5pm at home.
“It’s a nice feeling thinking that 20 odd years ago, that was me settling down and watching and hopefully being involved in Saturday for other people to watch.”
Those early childhood memories have taken on a different context in recent weeks for Biggar.
The fly-half sadly lost his mother, Elizabeth, just before the tour began. There would have been no one as proud as his mum heading into perhaps the biggest week of Biggar’s rugby career.
“It’s been a challenging couple of weeks before the tour.
“I’ve tried to focus everything on this week and putting myself in the best possible shape to be selected on Saturday. If it happens, then brilliant.
“If it doesn’t, you have to dust yourself down and go again. It’s huge; it’ll be very emotional either way – that she’s not around to watch if the selection goes the right way and, from the other side, if the selection doesn’t go the right way, you’ve got one less person who is close to you to lean on.
“It’ll be satisfying if I get it done in terms of selection.”
Were he to be selected, he knows the scale of the challenge facing him and his team-mates.
That’s the thing with the Springboks, he admits. Knowing the challenge that’s coming isn’t really the battle.
“What’s perhaps more impressive about South Africa is you kind of know everything they’re about to throw at you,” he adds.
“But it’s very difficult if they do it well or you’re a little bit off or lose a couple of collisions to get back on top of them.
That momentum is huge for them. It’s about staying in the arm wrestle for as long as possible, not giving them anything cheap and then taking your chances when you get them.
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“I think everyone who plays against South Africa knows what they’re going to present. It’s just making sure you’re physical and patient enough to stick in there.
“With fans or without them, in Cardiff or in Cape Town, you’ve got to make sure you step up physically. That’s been the big message since we got together on day one.”
Do that and the Lions will have a chance of a first series win in South Africa since 1997.
For Biggar, throwing himself wholeheartedly into pursuing that glory has acted as something of a refuge for some of the tougher times he’s endured.
“That’s what’s helped me over the last few months that I’ve had something to go into work every day and focus and take my mind off other things, I see it as a real positive in terms of jumping in with both feet and getting everything sorted ahead of a huge week.
“This has been a really good distraction for me in terms of preparing. I am lucky to have loads of good people around me as well which helps.
“I just hope it is worthwhile, not just for me but everyone else is going through tough times away from home and missing families as well.
“It’s been a difficult few months; I am focusing now on hopefully the next few weeks being as successful as possible to make it worthwhile.”
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