The Lions will have an ace in their pack for Saturday's tour opener in Johannesburg — after Jonny Hill revealed that a hole in one exactly a year ago ignited an upturn in his sporting fortunes.
Exeter’s England lock was named by Warren Gatland in the British and Irish side to take on rival Lions from Gauteng at Ellis Park.
Having been included in a powerful line-up led by club-mate Stuart Hogg, the 27-year-old reflected on a remarkable 12-month rise to prominence — which was launched in fine style, using a different sort of club.
Jonny Hill has been named in the British and Irish side to take on rival Lions from GautengInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Speaking after his selection was announced, Hill said: ‘This time last year — tomorrow actually — I got a hole in one in golf. It was my first one.
‘That was a good achievement and that’s where it all started really! It was at Exeter Golf and Country on a par five, 600 yards! No, it was actually a par three, 120 yards with a pitching wedge. I didn’t thin it, either, a nice bit of fade on it and it rolled in!’
He has barely looked back since, going on to win a Premiership and European Cup double with the Chiefs, before his Test debut for England and making enough of an impression on Gatland to earn inclusion in the head coach’s 37-man squad to tour South Africa.
But it’s not been an unbroken spell of success and satisfaction. There have been jolting setbacks along the way.
‘We went into the Six Nations and that definitely wasn’t plain sailing,’ said Hill.
‘I went in there with big plans and I remember driving home disappointed about how it had gone for me. So it was kind of about me coming back to my club, going back to basics and playing the way I want to play.’
Hill has quickly recovered from the disappointment of defeat in the Premiership final
His form was imperious over the last two months of the season and Exeter surged into another Premiership final, only to suffer an agonising defeat against Harlequins. Hill had to come to terms with the shattering outcome in a hurry.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer