The Lions made their first trip to South Africa for 12 years and continued the good work of the 1950s tour to New Zealand and Australia. Captained and managed by the Northern Irish pairing of Robin Thompson and Jack Siggins, the tourists possessed a back division of considerable talent, And from the moment Cliff Morgan led the party in half-an-hour of song for the crowds who turned out to meet them at Johannesburg airport, they captured the imagination and hearts of their hosts like no Lions before or since. Dickie Jeeps of England fed Cliff Morgan the Welsh stand-off and between them they created space for the 19 year old Tony O’Reilly the Irish wing to run in tries. Ably assisted by the centre pairing of Jeff Butterfield and Phil Davies.
The test series was shared with South Africa thanks to the realisation that the Lions would not win by taking them on up-front, instead, open rugby, with all possession to be run directly regardless of quality, was the tourists creed. Thrillingly, it earned them the best Lions record in the country since 1896 and produced a remarkable 26 tries in the four-match Test series.
The first of those internationals went down as one of the greatest ever played, with the Lions winning 23-22, thanks to tries from Cecil Pedlow, Butterfield, Morgan, Greenwood and O’Reilly and, ultimately, a missed conversion in injury-time by South Africa full-back Jack van der Schyff. The Lions felt the Springbok backlash in the second Test, with Tom van Vollenhoven scoring a hat-trick in a 25-9 revenge, only for the Lions, for once tightening up their game to win the third international 9-6.
Facing their first home series defeat in more than half a century, South Africa threw everything they had at the Lions in the fourth Test and outscored them by five tries to two. Their 22-8 defeat meant the tourists had to share the series, but their place in history was already secure.