1997 British Lions tour to South Africa

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1997 British Lions Tour to South Africa
Date 24 May  – 5 July
Coach(es) Ian McGeechan
Scotland Jim Telfer
Tour captain(s) England Martin Johnson
Test series winners British and Irish Lions (2–1)
Top test point scorer(s) Wales Neil Jenkins (41)
Top point scorer(s) England Tim Stimpson (111)
Top test try scorer(s) England Matt Dawson (2)
Top try scorer(s) England John Bentley (7)
England Tony Underwood (7)

The 1997 British Lions tour to South Africa was a series of matches played by the British Lions rugby union team in South Africa. This tour followed the Lion′s 1993 tour to New Zealand and preceded their 2001 tour to Australia. The much-anticipated tour was the first after the end of apartheid in South Africa, and the first Lions tour since rugby union turned professional. It was only the third time that a touring side had won a test series in South Africa; the others being the 1974 Lions and the 1996 All Blacks.[1]

A documentary Living with Lions was produced and contains backroom footage of players and coaching staff during and away from matches.

Pre-tour prospects[edit]

South Africa had won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, but were in decline at the time of the tour. The inaugural Tri Nations in 1996 had been comfortably won by New Zealand with South Africa winning only one of their four matches in the tournament. There was also some disarray in the management of the game in South Africa with the resignation of the coach Andre Markgraaff and the acrimonious replacement of the World Cup-winning captain Francois Pienaar. Nevertheless the Lions were seen to be underdogs – for example an editorial in the South African sports magazine "SA Sports Illustrated" said "The British Lions arrived in South Africa rated – by their own media, South African media and supporters – as nothing more than rank underdogs. A nice bunch of blokes who were making a bit of history and, in so doing, winning friends rather than matches".

The results[edit]

The Lions convincingly won the first test at Newlands 25–16 with Neil Jenkins kicking five penalties, and Matt Dawson and Alan Tait scoring tries. Despite scoring three tries in the second test at Durban, the Springboks suffered from some woeful goal kicking and failed to land any penalties or conversions, while the Lions Neil Jenkins once again kicked five penalties to level the scores at 15–15 before a Jerry Guscott drop goal for an 18–15 lead for the Lions. The Lions then held off a ferocious South African fightback, Lawrence Dallaglio putting in a magnificent try-saving tackle, to win the match 18–15 and take the series. The third test at Ellis Park proved a match too far for the Lions squad and they lost 35–16.

The tour was a triumph for the Lions management of Fran Cotton (Manager), Ian McGeechan (Head Coach), Jim Telfer (Assistant Coach) and especially the Captain Martin Johnson. It was the last occasion on which the Lions returned victorious from a tour until the victorious tour of Australia in 2013.

Lions squad[edit]

The original 35-man squad was:

  • Captain and second row

Later additions to the tour were

Matches[edit]

Scores and results list British Lions's points tally first.[1]
Date Opponent Location Result Score
Match 1 24 May Eastern Province XV Boet Erasmus Stadium, Port Elizabeth Won 39–11
Match 2 28 May Border Basil Kenyon Stadium, East London Won 18–14
Match 3 31 May Western Province Newlands, Cape Town Won 38–21
Match 4 4 June Mpumalanga Johann van Riebeeck Stadium, Witbank Won 64–14
Match 5 7 June Northern Transvaal Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria Lost 30–35
Match 6 11 June Gauteng Lions Ellis Park, Johannesburg Won 20–14
Match 7 14 June Natal King's Park, Durban Won 42–12
Match 8 17 June Emerging Springboks Boland Stadium, Wellington Won 51–22
Match 9 21 June SOUTH AFRICA Newlands, Cape Town Won 25–16
Match 10 21 June Free State Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein Won 52–30
Match 11 28 June SOUTH AFRICA King's Park, Durban Won 18–15
Match 12 1 July Northern Free State Noord-wes Stadium, Welkom Won 67–39
Match 13 5 July SOUTH AFRICA Ellis Park, Johannesburg Lost 16–35

First Test[edit]

21 June
South Africa  16–25 Lions
Try: Du Randt
Bennett
Pen: Lubbe
Honiball
Try: Dawson
Tait
Pen: Jenkins (5)
Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Colin Hawke (New Zealand)

South Africa: 15. Joubert 14. Small 13. Mulder 12. Lubbe 11. Snyman 10. Honiball 9. van der Westhuizen 1 du Randt 2 Drotske 3 Garvey 4 Andrews 5 Strydom 6 Kruger 7 Venter 8 Teichmann (capt). Replacements: Bennett (Unused: Dalton, Otto, Swanepoel, Theron, Wessels)

Lions: 15 Jenkins; 14. Evans 13. Gibbs, 12 Guscott, 11. Tait 10. Townsend, 9 Dawson. 1. Smith, 2 Wood 3. Wallace, 4. Johnson (capt), 5. Davidson; 6. Dallaglio, 7. Hill, 8. Rodber

Second Test[edit]

28 June 1997
South Africa  15–18 Lions
Try: Van der Westhuizen
Montgomery
Joubert
Pen: Jenkins (5)
Drop: Guscott
King's Park, Durban
Referee: Didier Mene (France)

South Africa: 15. Joubert 14. Small 13. Montgomery 12. Snyman 11. Rossouw 10. Honiball 9. van der Westhuizen 1 du Randt 2 Drotske 3 Garvey 4 Strydom 5 Andrews 6 Kruger 7 Venter 8 Teichmann (capt).

Lions. 15 Jenkins; 14. Bentley 13. Gibbs, 12 Guscott, 11. Tait 10. Townsend, 9 Dawson. 1. Smith, 2 Wood 3. Wallace, 4. Johnson (capt), 5. Davidson; 6. Dallaglio, 7. Hill, 8. Rodber

Third Test[edit]

5 July 1997
South Africa  35–16 Lions
Try: Van der Westhuizen
Montgomery
Snyman
Rossouw
Con: De Beer (2)
Honiball
Pen: De Beer
Try: Dawson
Con: Jenkins
Pen: Jenkins(3)
Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Wayne Erickson (Australia)

Lions: 15 Jenkins; 14 Bentley, 13 Gibbs, 12 Guscott, 11Underwood; 10. Catt, 9. Dawson; 1 Smith, 2 Regan, 3 Wallace 4 Johnson (capt), 5 Davidson, 6 Wainwright, 7 Back, 8 Dallaglio

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mick Cleary and John Griffiths, ed. (1997). Rothmans Rugby Union Yearbook 1997–98. London: Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 0 7472 7732 X. 


Preceded by
1993 Tour to New Zealand
Tour to South Africa
1997
Succeeded by
2001 Tour to Australia