1974 Lions

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”. 

Some proper reflection on British rugby in general would have revealed that rugby in the United Kingdom was on an upward curve and that a significant transformation took place in how they approach the game. England for example toured to South Africa in 1972 beating the Springboks in a one-off test and then followed it up by beating the All Blacks in 1973 in New Zealand; revealing that the 1972 victory over the Springboks was not a flux and/or the results of South Africa being poor on the day.  British rugby become a lot more professional in terms of coaching and preparation of players in the late nineteen sixties as was evident by the fact that the 69/70 EOYT Springboks could not win a single test match in the UK. The failure of the 69/70 South African tourists was never really dissected by the South African media and rugby administrators as the heavy resistance against the tour took precedence upon reflection of the tour. In fact Gerhard Viviers the Afrikaans rugby commentator wrote a book about that tour called “Rugby agter doringdraad” (Rugby behind barbwire) which in essence was a very patriotic account of that tour putting the blame for failure squarely on the behaviour of the British demonstrators without saying it in so many word.

In the midst of all this the Lions toured to New Zealand in 1971 and won the series. The success of the 1972 England team to SA, the 1973 England team to New Zealand as well as the 1971 Lions series win in New Zealand left clear signals that British rugby was on a high but somehow this escaped the awareness of the South African rugby community.

The real stars of that 1971 series were players from Wales with some stand-outs from Scotland as well which indicated that England was not the only team on an upward curve in the United Kingdom in the early nineteen seventies. In addition, the Lions coach Syd Millar did his homework and came to South Africa properly prepared while South African rugby (administrators, coaches, selectors and senior players) were seemingly totally oblivious to what was heading their way.

Fact is that the 1955 British and Irish Lions were considered by Danie Craven to be the best side (that was before the 1974 Lions) to have toured South Africa. So not all Lions sides was poor as Marais seems to have thought at the start of the 1974 Lions tour and a bit of research would have revealed to him that the 1974 side had a core of experienced internationals that toured New Zealand and beaten the All Blacks at home in 1971.

Positions 1971 Lions 1974 Lions
Fullbacks R HillerJ

PR Williams

Andy Irvine

JPR Williams

Threequarters JC Bevan

AG Bigger

SJ Dawes

TGR Davies

DJ Duckham

AJ Lewis

JS Spencer

CWW Rea

RTE Bergiers

GW Evans

TO Grace

IR McGeechan

RA Milliken

AJ Morley

CFW Reas

WCC Steele

JJ Williams

Halfbacks GO Edwards

CMH Gibson

R Hopkins

B John

GO Edwards

P Bennett

CMH Gibson

JJ Moloney

AGB Old

Forwards RJ Arneil

GL Brown

AG Carmichael

TM Davies

PJ Dixon

TG Evans

ML Hipwell

FAL Laidlaw

JF Lynch

WJ McBride

J McLauchlan

RJ McLoughlin

JV Pullin

DL Quinnell

MG Roberts

JF Slattery

CB Stevens

J Taylor

WD Thomas

MA Burton

GL Brown

AG Carmichael

TM Davies

FE Cotton

T David

KW Kennedy

SA McKinney

A Neary

WJ McBride

J McLauchlan

CW Ralston

AG Ripley

RM Uttley

RW Windsor

JF Slattery

 

Players like John Pullin, Alan Old, Mike Burton, Tony Neary, Andy Ripley, Fran Cotton, Alan Morley, Mike Burton and Chris Ralston also played in the 1972 for England against South Arica and most probably in 1973 against New Zealand.

South Africa however didn’t have television in 1971 so South Africans didn’t see that series against the All Blacks. In addition the last Springbok tour to the UK was in 1969 so the SA rugby fraternity hardly knew the players that were coming to the country. They had no idea really that coaching and training methods had taken a more professional turn in the UK.

As it were the only easy obtainable information available about the Lions was in in the form of pull-out brochures ‘like the one shown below published in popular magazines such as the Huisgenoot (You). The articles were mostly focussing on introducing the players and were very superficial with regard to what it actually revealed about the players.

 74 Lions Pre-tour360

The ’74 Lions side had no weaknesses and they came to South Africa with a thorough understanding of the Springboks mind-set. It was McBride’s 5th tour as a British and Irish Lions; his first Lions tour to South Africa was in 1962. They knew that if you can beat the Springboks in the scrums they can be beaten so they targeted the scrum. Millar the coach told his troops at the start of the tour: “You’ll scrums and scrum and scrum for the next few months until you’re sick of it, but if we want to beat these bastards we need to out scrum them.” And that is exactly what they did; purposely targeting the scrum in every single provincial match leading up to the first test; scrumming the opposition into the ground. McLauchlan at loose-head proved a stumbling block to most opponents and often the Lions front row was so low that the hooker, especially Windsor, frequently struck with his head.

The perfect balance of the pack; in binding and positioning of feet, plus the driving over the ball followed by the pause and ‘holding’ when required, produced a high standard of scrummaging. The eight man shove on their opponents ‘put in’ was most effective and the low straight as a table position of every member in the pack was impressive.

The big test was however in the first test and that first scrum was the place where they took control and did the damage.

This video shows the highlights of the four test matches. Notice how the Springboks get pushed back in the scrum in the first test. Snyman dropped a goal from the ball that came out of that scrum which diffused the humilation somewhat and disguised the true impact of that scrum on the test and series a bit.  See also in the material on the second test how stable the Lions scrum were when Edwards launched a box kick that led to JJ Williams’ first try. In comparison see how the Springboks got pushed back in the scrum that led to Gordon Browns try towards the end of the clip on the second test. SA were put under so much pressure in the scrum that the backline could not function properly and in the case of Browns try -in the second test- the pressure culminated in an inability to make a proper clearance kick which allowed the Lions to run at them so that Brown could score.

Another very famous aspect of this tour was the 99-call. The Lions decided that they are not going to allow intimidation by the Springboks. So whenever there were any form of physical intimidation they are all going to jump in and retaliate on the call 99.  This video clip shows the 99-call being put into action during the third test in Port Elizabeth. JPR Williams famously ran 55 meters from his fullback spot to go and punch Moaner van Heerden when the 99-call was made. This video features interviews with some Lions players about the 99-call.

The lions ran away with the provincial matches as can be seen in this slide show I’ve put together on the 1974 tour.

The games against Western Province, Transvaal and Free State had significant impact on the series.

WP 74026

Western Province ran the ball at the Lions and scored two good tries on a dry field. This was incidentally the last time a try was registered on a Saturday match against the Lions up to the fourth test.

The success of the WP backline and the ability of their pack to manage upfront had however a misleading effect on the South African selectors. They opted to go for essentially a Western Province team that could run at the Lions. There were eight (9 if you include Gert Muller who started his international career playing for Western Province) in the Springbok team and I can still remember the newspaper headlines complaining that there were too many WP players in the team. The Rapport’s (leading Afrikaans Sunday newspaper) head line was that irrespective of the result (win, draw or lose) of the first test there simply was too many Western Province players in the Springbok team.

Newlands was however heavy with rain on test day and the Lions controlled the match with forwards and scrumhalf while the Springboks never tried to run the ball.

 The Transvaal match was played just before the second test. The Lions had flu in the camp and was playing without playmaker Gareth Edwards and they were struggling with the high altitude. This left the impression that they were vulnerable in the pack at altitude and the selectors as a consequence opted for Highveld players like Nic Bezuidenhout, Dave Fredrickson, and Kevin de Klerk in the pack. Morné du Plessis was moved from No8 to 6 and Dougald McDonald was brought in as No8. In total their where 6 changes and one position shift to the team. Gerald Bosch was brought in on flyhalf with the idea to play a tight game and controlling proceeding with Bosch from the No10 position. The Lions however took control up front and the Springbok pack was humiliated in the scrums and line-outs.

TVL 74034

The near success of the Free State team against the Lions two Saturdays before the third test saw the selectors going for quite a number of Free State players in team selection for that deciding test match. Jackie Snyman was moved to flyhalf, Gerrie Sonnekus was selected as scrumhalf while Jan Schlebusch and Peter Cronje was brought in on centre. The pack also featured players who played well against the Lions in matches for Free State, the Quagga barbarians and Northern Transvaal in the weeks building up to the third test. John Williams was replaced by Johan de Bruyn, Polla Fourie and Klippies Kritzinger got selected as loose forwards While Moaner van Heerden replaced Kevin de Klerk on the other lock. Piston van Wyk was brought back as hooker. In total 9 changes and one positional shift was made to the team that played in the second test.

Polla Fourie revealed in 1980 that they felt like a bunch of lost sheep going into that 3rd test. There were no structures, set moves, and cohesiveness in the team due to the multiple changes and the fact that most of the players have never played together. The biggest mistake was the selection of Gerrie Sonnekus on scrumhalf in place of the injured Paul Bayvel ahead of players like Barry Wolmerans and Gert Schutte. Sonnekus had a shocker and received much of the blame for the Springboks struggling performance which was a bit unfair as the pack was comprehensively beaten.  JJ Williams repeated his feat in the second and scored another double in the third test match.

1974 Polla Fourie 3rd test589

The last test was a draw 13 all and is remembered mainly for the fact that Max Baise -the referee- disallowed what the Lions believed was a try by Fergus Slattery in the dying seconds. It is interesting how this is mentioned and elaborated on during interviews with Lions players of that tour. Ignored is the fact that Max Baise awarded a try to Roger Uttley after Chis Pope dotted it down in his own in goal area. Ignored also is the fact that the pass by Gareth Edwards that lead to Andy Irvine’s try seemed to have been forward.

Uttley 4th  test 74019

The fourth test is further more remembered for the outstanding line-out play of John Williams; the pass that Gert Muller knocked on with an open run to the goal line after a brilliant line break by Jackie Snyman and the fact that Peter Cronje scored the Springboks first and only try in the series.

Below is a summary of the 1974 tour. It was a devastating experience for SA rugby fans but in hindsight one that seemed to have spirited SA rugby to adjust. At the end of that year the Boks toured to France and won the series. A feat that was repeated when France toured to SA in 1975 and in 1976 South Africa won a series against the All Blacks. The Springboks had a brilliant show against a world international XV in 1977 and then won an outstanding series against the Lions in 1980 while also beating the Jaguars and Ireland in two respective series consisting of two test matches each. In addition there was a one off test match against France in 1980 that the Springboks won quite comprehensively. The team that toured to New Zealand in 1981 was also very competitive.

1974 Summary648

15 thoughts on “1974 Lions

  1. Happy new year. McLook! I always look forward to your posts. Hope you are well rested over the off-season, and I’m looking forward to another season of trips down memory lane, not just for rugby nostalgia, but also for analysis and understanding.

    I know a Kiwi who was invited to South Africa in 1974 to watch the Lions team. He had seen the 1971 Lions, and rated the 1974 tourists even better – the best team he ever saw. A three-month long tour of South Africa playing against all those big men and skillful goal kickers, at sea level, and then up to the veldt and back again, with all the off-field distractions and hospitality, and they didn’t lose a single game – incredible!

    The 1971 Lions had been reformed as the Barbarians team that beat the All Blacks in 1973 23-11 in one of the greatest games of all time. So the 1974 Lions were, as you have shown in this post, in continuity of development, and established the British as dominant in world rugby, probably only repeated once since, ever so briefly by England in about 2000-2003. You mention the good results of England in 1972/73. England was actually patchy whenever they played in the (then) 5 nations (usually due to poor selections), but they, along with Ireland and Scotland added some great players to the essential Welsh core – and the 1970s was the golden era of Welsh rugby, the best they ever had.

    “Below is a summary of the 1974 tour. It was a devastating experience for SA rugby fans but in hindsight one that seemed to have spirited SA rugby to adjust”.

    Probably very true. It is funny, but for both South Africa and New Zealand rugby is such a serious business, and losing so unpleasant, if we do lose, we have an incentive to absorb the lessons.

    The two teams that taught and influenced New Zealand rugby the most were the two teams we lost series to at home – the 1937 Springboks (who reinforced the lesson that if you are going to win, it begins up front with the forwards), and the 1971 Lions (who taught us that you should never be complacent when it comes to forward techniques, no matter how strong you think you are, and good backs are an effective and valuable asset/a second string to your bow to win a game that compliments forward power.

    The Irish and 1971 Lion’s prop Ray McLoughlin (not to be confused with Scotsman Ian “Mighty Mouse” McLachlan – an equally great scrummager) had used his knowledge of physics (he was a chemist) to revamp scrummaging techniques. The All Black and Springbok props of that era (Jazz Muller, Keith Murdoch, Hannes Marais, Mof Myburgh, Nic Bezuidenhout) were physically bigger than their British opposites, but superior scrummaging technique of British rugby at the time meant the Lions were always going forwards.

    And with a great No. 9 like Gareth Edwards (arguably the greatest scrum half, and maybe even the greatest player of all time), fly halves like Phil Bennett (and Barry John before him), great finishing wingers like Gerald Davies, JJ Williams, and Andy Irvine) and a great running fullback of immense courage and skill like JPR, both South Africa and New Zealand were fairly and squarely humiliated.

    • Hi Kimbo. Very good to hear from you. I do enjoy our memory lane chats and seems to pick-up something I didn’t know with each conversation. The Kiwi perspective on things is certainly entertaining if not refreshing.

      You made quite a number of interesting points so I’ll take them one by one. You wrote: “I know a Kiwi who was invited to South Africa in 1974 to watch the Lions team. He had seen the 1971 Lions, and rated the 1974 tourists even better – the best team he ever saw.”

      One of the scribes I’ve referenced on the 1974 tour (JBG Thomas) opiniates that the 1971 team might have had better playmakers in the midfield with Barry John John Dawes and Mike Gibson (past his best in 1974) in the backline. The 1971 also had Gerald Davies on the wing who scored some spectacular tries in that series.

      The difference between the two teams (1971 and 1974 Lions) are probably that the 1974 forward pack was a bit more streetwise, and experienced and as a consequence a bit more dominant. Gareth Edwards was at the peak of his powers and revelled behind that pack. Bennett was the surprise of the tour but his success had much to do with the forward dominance and Edwards.

      JJ Williams unravelled as a opportunistic genius and his partnership with JPR Williams was lethal. Andy Irvine was added to that combo (playing on the other wing) in the third and fourth test matches which meant that altgough they might have been lacking the playmaking skills of the 1971 side in the midfield they (the 1974 side) had lethal finnishers.

    • You wrote: “You mention the good results of England in 1972/73. England was actually patchy whenever they played in the (then) 5 nations (usually due to poor selections), but they, along with Ireland and Scotland added some great players to the essential Welsh core – and the 1970s was the golden era of Welsh rugby, the best they ever had.”

      Yip the Welsh players were certainly the bunch that added the flair to the team. McBride’s influence can however not be ignored as his team-mates remain in awe of him even today (and perhaps a little scared, too). He was fearless, intelligent, fair and a brilliant motivator and tactical instigator. It was he who gelled that team together. He was also a key figure in the 1971 Lions team.

      Testament of his mana was the fact that Bennett didn’t even argue when McBride requested that he stayed on the field after injuring his foot in the second test.

    • I have to say something about your remark on the 1937 Springboks (“the 1937 Springboks (who reinforced the lesson that if you are going to win, it begins up front with the forwards”).

      You are probably refering to Phillip Nel’s famous response on every line-out: “We’ll scrum mr ref, we’ll take the scrum”. In those days you could scrum instead of the lineout and the 1937 team had a pack equal to few other Springboks teams over the years.

      That 1937 side did however more than just scrum. They are remembered for the open attractive rugby they played and they scored some spectacular backline tries during that series. Craven in latter years remained steadfast in his belief that Louis Babrow was one of the best centres (if not the best) that he had the priviledge to see and play with. In addition the 1937 team had the likes of Dai Williams, Turner and Lochner in the backline and of course Gerry Brand on fullback. Craven wrote that Gerry Brand was by far the best fulback he ever saw.

  2. Yes, the 1937 Springboks were a complete team – when they selected their best team! They had 5 senior players picking the test teams, rather than a coach.

    However, I’m not sure they were markedly superior to the NZ backline that year, except at no. 9 and 10 – and even then, in the first test, which the All Blacks won despite being reduced to only 7 forwards due to injury (but despite that the All Blacks forwards responded magnificently in the loose to outplay the Boks pack) the All Black halves Harry Simon and Dave Trevathan out-played the Springboks halves Pierre de Villiers and Danie Craven (who was foolishly played out of position at no. 10).

    The third test debacle of 1937 was also a result of poor All Black selections in the backline, including a great player, ‘Brushy’ Mitchell playing despite a bad injury. Once the scrummaging started, the great Bok backline administered the coup de grâce.

    Put it this way – other than the dive pass, and despite undoubtedly great players like Craven, Gerry Brand, Freddie Turner, and Tony Harris, the only thing new that the 1937 Springbok back line introduced was Craven’s dive pass. When we picked our team for 1949 (and also almost definitely the same for the cancelled scheduled tour of 1940), it wasn’t the South African backs we were afraid of and (mis) planned for – it was the scrummaging of the Springbok forwards.

    But back to the 1974 Lions – excellent comments re Willie John McBride. He had taken some hard knocks in some disappointing Lions teams that were well beaten in the 1960s, and knew exactly the attitude required. I’ve seen videos of him telling some very funny stories. After the second test win in 1974 the Lions, not unexpectedly, had one hell of a party. Things got a bit out of hand, and McBride recounts awaking in a bleary haze at about 4am seeing Bobby Windsor wearing nothing but his underpants, standing in the hallway of their Pretoria hotel with a fire hose in his hand, spraying anyone and everyone. The hotel manager stormed up to McBride and said he was going to call the police. McBride surveyed the scene, tried to quickly think of what he could say to stop that threat, and without a trace of a smile asked, “Oh yes. And how many police will you be asking for?” – and directed his gaze at the rampant Lions running amok! The hotel mananger burst out laughing. The ’99’ call wasn’t just for on the field!

  3. To be fair to the Springbok selectors of 1974, the lack of international play in the succeeding two years (just one test against England, and the cancellation of the 1973 tour to New Zealand) meant that the natural continuity of team development and selection that usually occurs with SA, NZ and (to a lesser extent in that era, due to the constant defections to rugby league and general lack of depth) Aussie, wasn’t possible. So the selectors faced an initial problem of not knowing what the best national team was.

    We had the same thing happen when we faced the 1971 Lions – a mass retirement of senior players who had held on for the 1970 tour to South Africa, but who then retired straight afterwards- e.g., Bill Davis, Ian MacRae, Earle Kirton, Chris Laidlaw, Bruce McLeod, and Brian Lochore (although due to an injury crisis and at one days notice he was lured out of retirement to play in the 3rd test of 1971 – and sadly tarnished his reputation playing in a well-beaten side). Plus also Gerald Kember made himself unavailable, and Graham Thorne, much to the annoyance of the women-folk of NZ, broke off his engagement with a Kiwi girl a month after returning from the 1970 tour, and returned to South Africa to live and marry a South African girl he met while on tour. Plus Fergie McCormick, Alistair Hopkinson, Tom Lister were considered by the NZ selectors to be “over-the-hill”

    In 1974 you first picked good players like Gerald Bosch, Gerrie Germishuys, Kevin de Klerk, and Moaner van Heerden. Similarly, we baptised some good players in 1971- Peter Whiting, Tane Norton, Bob Burgess – which is a testament to the ability of the SA and NZ rugby systems to produce talent. However, if you check the All Black teams of 1971 you’ll see the same sort of “who’s he” names that you find with the 1974 Springboks – Howard Joseph, Ken Carrington, Bruce Hunter, Mick Duncan, Phil Gard, Richie Guy. They were all useful provincial players, and the raw talent both NZ and SA produce is a testament to our relative depth, but they were all untried, and struggled especially in a team environment with only a few senior players – Colin Meads, Sid Going, Ian Kirkpatrick, Wayne Cottrell, even Bryan Williams after just one season was a ‘senior’ player in 1971!

    By 1974, and especially after the high point of 1970, the Springboks had lost Frik du Preez, Piet Greyling, Dawie de Villiers, Piet Visagie, Mannetjies Roux, Syd Nomis. Those were world class players, and without the chance to go through a tour in 1973, you can understand why the Springbok selectors struggled to know what their best side was. The “hardcore” – Hannes Marais, Jan Ellis, Gert Muller, Ian McCallum – were obviously insufficient in numbers, or, in the case of McCallum and Muller, failed to recapture their form of 1970.

    Ordinarily both SA and NZ would have been able to cope, as Lions teams of their very nature are “one-off creations”, selected every three or four years. However, as you’ve rightly pointed out, the Lions of 1974 were in a good continuous phase of development with their 1971 predecessors, plus unluckily for the All Black and Springbok selectors of those respective years, they were the strongest British teams of all time, in terms of depth, selections, quality of coaching, management, team unity, and self-belief (which had always been patchy with previous Lions teams before 1971).

    • Good thoughts Kimbo. Totally agree. There was also lots of injuries but in hindsight Kirkpatrick later revealed that if they stayed with the first test core SA might have done better in the series.

  4. However, as much as the Springboks selectors of 1974 faced an initial problem of identifying and knowing what their best talent that would translate from provincial to the international level was, your post tells a tale: –

    “The success of the WP backline and the ability of their pack to manage upfront had however a misleading effect on the South African selectors. They opted (in the first test) to go for essentially a Western Province team that could run at the Lions…

    The Transvaal match was played just before the second test. The Lions had flu in the camp and was playing without playmaker Gareth Edwards and they were struggling with the high altitude. This left the impression that they were vulnerable in the pack at altitude and the selectors as a consequence opted for Highveld players…

    The near success of the Free State team against the Lions two Saturdays before the third test saw the selectors going for quite a number of Free State players in team selection for that deciding test match….”

    That is thoroughly reactive, rather than proactive selecting, and at the hands of an outfit like the 1974 Lions got the punishment it deserved. The Lions were almost definitely always going to win that 1974 series, but those two 20-point blow-outs in the third and fourth test should never have happened to any Springbok team in the amateur era. I always wondered what the full story was with the Springbok selection policies of that year (and I had read about Gerrie Sonnekus, who was pitched into a situation no international player should ever have to face, and who redeemed himself magnificently when given another chance in his true position in 1984). Thanks for filling in the gaps.

    On the 1970 tour of South Africa, as you have documented elsewhere on your site, McLook, the All Black test selectors had also foolishly too influenced by temporary form in particular games, and 27 of the 30 tourists played in the test series. Some of the selections, particularly before the third test (dropping Jazz Muller for Neil Thimbleby, dropping Alan Sutherland for the injured Colin Meads, moving Bryan Williams to centre, and Graham Thorne to the wing, picking Buff Milner – although he played ok on the day, but was probably never a test player), and the fourth test (dropping Sam Strahan, dropping Alex Wyllie for Tom Lister, dropping Earle Kirton for Blair Furlong, and dropping Fergi McCormick for Gerald Kember) showed a reactive selection method.

    “Form is temporary, class is permanent” is a very good maxim at the highest level! Selecting might seem easy for the arm chair critic and the media, especially when they bring a provincial bias (and there is plenty of that in both South Africa and NZ!) – and you sure get the impression the Springbok selectors of 1974 WERE influenced by the public and media.

    However, good selection rests on a confidence that you know how to identify and recognise good talent, and see how it can be taken from one context, and translated into another. When you have no skin in the game it is easy it is easy to opine that this or that player should be in the team instead of another. But when it is your reputation and job as a selector/coach that is on the line, and you lose a game, and the vultures start circling, and the psychological pressure starts gnawing away at your decision-making processes, can you keep your nerve?

    The 1974 Lions,even though they were clearly superior to any team in South Africa in 1974, be it test or provincial opposition, rightly knew a tour of South Africa was a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike the 1970 All Black team, who thrashed Transvaal, OFS, and Western Province, but lost out on the big prize, the 1974 Lions knew what those games really were – building blocks to win the test series.

    • The Lions also made specific remarks in the media to try and influence the selectors. They were scared of John Williams in the line-outs and blowed Johan de Bruyn up after the Free State match in the media while downlaying Williams calling him a jollyjumper.It is believed that these remarks also influenced the selectors.

      Most of the players selected later became very good Springboks but with the jumping around the team never got a change to develop as a unit.

  5. Yes, the 1971 Lions did the same thing. Manager Doug Smith, coach Carwyn James, and captain John Dawes talked all tour about a “weak link” in the All Blacks. The NZ press picked it up, and people started speculating if it was Colin Meads (at the end of his career, and he played the entire series with a rib cartilage injury), Fergi McCormick (dropped after the first test when Barry John’s tactical kicking had found his positional play wanting, which affected him psychologically with missed kicks at goal), or someone in the front row.

    In the end NZ never found out, but placed pressure on the home team by all the endless speculation.

    Re your comment about injuries to the Springbok team in 1974 disputing selections. Yes, when it rains it pours. I seem to remember the same thing happened to the Boks when we beat you in South Africa in 1996 (have I mentioned how much we Kiwis LOVE that series? Got injuries? Mmmmmmm – let me enjoy the taste of your tears! :).

    The All Blacks had the same thing in 1971 – Keith Murdoch kept getting picked then dropping out of games with injuries, and then Bryan Williams and Peter Whiting dropped out of the third test team at the last minute, and then Bob Burgess, a match winner in the 2nd test team, was injured in the third, although to be fair, the game was won and lost by that stage.

    I know you aren’t making excuses (and neither would a good rugby man like Ian Kirkpatrick), and you are well aware of the reality, but injuries are a fact of rugby life. The 1971 Lions lost their first string props Ray McLoughlin and Sandy Carmichael before the first test of 1971 courtesy of a dirty Canterbury team (and a lot of people have speculated that game was the genesis of the thought about the ’99’ call). As a result Mighty Mouse Ian McLachlan got his chance.

    At the time it seemed like a lamb to the slaughter as Mclachlan was relatively untried, had no reputation, and was out-weighed by his opposite Jazz Muller by at least 20 kg. But it became the making of a world class player- as you experienced in 1974!

    Plenty of teams have toured South Africa and had ‘crucial’ injury problems – Richard Sharp in the 1962 Lions, Barry John, Keith Jarrett, and Gareth Edwards in the 1968 Lions, Colin Meads with his broken arm in 1970, and then for the fourth test of that same tour Wayne Cottrell (injured) , and Chris Laidlaw (in hospital with appendicitis) unavailable, and the only fit half back Sid Going having to play on one leg. Or, as per the series you are running currently, practically every member of the 1956 Springbok backline at some time except Popeye Strydom and Jeremy Nel!

    Put it this way – injuries tend to be a “bad luck” factor that evens out. I seem to remember the 1980 Lions who could have/should have/might have won, or at least drawn their series in South Africa had a horrendous run with injuries.

    If you win, you don’t remember them, because the players who replaced the incumbents took their chances. History shows that, with the exception of 1971 and 1974, New Zealand and South Africa usually have enough talent and depth to beat Lions teams, despite the inevitability of injuries.

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