Champions Cup: Harlequins captain Stephan Lewies relishing Durban return against Sharks

Stephan Lewies Harlequins v Saracens Premiership 2022 - Alamy.jpg Credit: Alamy
Stephan Lewies Harlequins v Saracens Premiership 2022 - Alamy.jpg Credit: Alamy

Stephan Lewies is set for a nostalgic return to Durban on Saturday when he captains Harlequins against his former side the Sharks in their Champions Cup opener.

The 30-year-old lock played for the Sharks at junior level before turning out for them in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions from 2012 to 2018, while another Harlequins team-mate, hard running centre Andre Esterhuizen, represented the Durban-based outfit between 2014 and 2020.

Excited to be back at Kings Park

Lewies is excited about the challenge of facing some familiar faces at his old stomping ground, Kings Park.

“Going back home is going to be an amazing experience for me,” he said.

“Myself and Andre Esterhuizen told the team a lot about South Africa and Durban especially, so going back there and playing on our old ground will be amazing.

“I think getting used to the tropical weather and humidity of 90% will be a big challenge for the team, but hopefully we can overcome that and put out a good performance.”

Although the Sharks are a side in transition – after parting ways with their head coach Sean Everitt following a 35-0 United Rugby Championship home loss to Cardiff last month – Lewies is not underestimating his opponents.

“I think half the Springboks team is playing for the Sharks,” said Lewies who made one Test appearance for South Africa in 2014.

“They are a proud team. They would have been hurting after losing like that to Cardiff and I can promise you a wounded animal is dangerous.

“I was there for eight or nine years and it will be amazing to go back to the Shark Tank. It’s not something I thought would be possible. For me and Andre [Esterhuizen] to get the chance to play against some of our old mates is incredible.

“The good thing for me is, since I left, the team has changed completely, so they probably won’t remember me! For Andre, it might be a bit different as he left a few years after me. I definitely think they will try and get stuck into him a bit more.”

Lewies highlighted what the European teams can expect when they come out to South Africa to compete in the Champions and Challenge Cup tournaments.

“You can expect it to be tough and really physical out there. The South African game is based on physicality,” he said.

“We are in the summer over there now, so going from winter to summer will be tough. I feel sorry for the boys going out to play up in the highveld against the Bulls and Lions at altitude.

Tough conditions

“You have to try and hang in there in the first 20 minutes. You are tasting blood in your mouth. It’s tough. You can’t prepare for it, honestly.

“You can talk about it and you think you know how hard it is, but until you actually do it you won’t know. You just have to try and get through the 80 minutes. It will be a good challenge, a good experience for everyone.”

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Sharks boss Neil Powell believes teamwork is key for his Springbok-laden side against Harlequins

The article Champions Cup: Harlequins captain Stephan Lewies relishing Durban return against Sharks appeared first on Planetrugby.com.