The 1974 Tour of the Lions to South Africa was undoubtedly the most unsettling tour ever for Springbok rugby. Touring unbeaten through South Africa superior in every aspect in virtually every single match including the test matches it was a massive wake-up call for South African rugby.
I was 12 years old when this tour eventuated. In my mind at that time the Springboks had an aura of invincibility. I was too young to know about the 1956 and 1965 tours as the patriotic Afrikaans media did not write much about it. The country was still in euphoria after the 1970 victory over Lochore’s All Blacks and the unbeaten 1971 tour to Australia. It was never said in so many words but generally the 1972 loss against England was seen as just a hiccup; a fleeting glitch due to team selections and underestimation of the opposition. South Africa to be brutally honest had no idea what was coming when the British and Irish Lions arrived in the country in May 1974. Hannes Marais admitted to this when he said in an interview that the South African expectation of the ‘74 Lions was built on the 1968 Lions which was in his words “a pretty useless lot; just on tour for the party”. Continue reading