1974 B & I Lions toured South Africa

The 1974 British Lions toured South Africa and carried on from the 71 tour to New Zealand with another series win.The Lions won 21 of their 22 matches and drew the other. After winning the first three test matches, the Lions drew the final test to preserve their unbeaten record. The side was captained by Willie John McBride, coached by Syd Millar and managed by Alun Thomas.

Willie John McBrideWillie John McBride

The management of the Lions had formed the opinion that the Springboks dominated their opponents with physical aggression. At that time, the referee was from the home nation, there were only substitutions if a doctor agreed that a player was physically unable to continue and there was no modern video cameras and officials to keep actions such as punching, kicking, and head-butting to a minimum. The Lions decided to get their retaliation in first, with the infamous 99 call. The idea was that a South African referee would be unlikely to send off all of the Lions if they all retaliated against any thuggery. At the ‘Battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium’, in Port Elizabeth, one of the most violent matches in rugby history, there is famous video footage of JPR Williams running over half the length of the pitch and launching himself at Moaner van Heerden after such a call.

We should not forget that for all the intimidation there was some good rugby played and the Lions won the first test 3-12 with all their points from the boot of Phil Bennett. The second test was won 9-28, thanks to tries from JJ Williams 2, Bennett, Brown and Milliken, plus a penalty and conversion from Bennett and drop goal by Ian McGeechan. The third test was won 9-26 with 2 tries to JJ Williams plus 1 from Brown. With a conversion and penalty from Andy Irvine and 2 drops to Bennett. The final test in Johannesburg was watched by 75,000 and this game ended in a 13-13 draw. The Lions scores coming from tries to Roger Uttley and Andy Irvine, with a penalty to Irvine and conversion to Phil Bennett.