Lions in Africa
The British & Irish Lions and the Hunt for the Springboks
15th August 2021
It was the year 1891, and the first rugby football team from the British Isles was about to embark on a tour of South Africa; any doubts about the financial sustainability of the venture were removed when mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes thumped the table and declared, ’Let them come. I shall stand security for any shortfall.’ And so a tradition began that survived the financial insecurities of the pioneer years, two World Wars, sports boycotts, and the birth of the professional era.
These tours have produced some of the finest Test rugby and some of the greatest players and sides seen anywhere in the world. The 1955 series, where Ellis Park drew 90 000 spectators and the likes of Tony O’Reilly, Cliff Morgan and Tom van Vollenhoven set the game alight; the legendary undefeated 1974 side of Willie John McBride, when arguably the finest international touring team to set foot on South African soil destroyed the Springboks; the 1997 side that conquered the then world champions when Jeremy Guscott’s snap drop goal sealed the series with one Test to go.
The Lions in South Africa is an entertaining narrative of one of international sport’s most popular contests, and a welcome addition to any rugby fan’s bookshelf.