1997 British Lions Tour to South Africa
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1997 British Lions Tour to South Africa

1997 British Lions Tour to South Africa
Date24 May - 5 July
Coach(es)ScotlandIan McGeechan
Scotland Jim Telfer
Tour captain(s)England Martin Johnson
Test series winnersBritish 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 Lions' 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 footage of players and coaching staff during and away from matches.

Pre-tour prospects

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

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

The original 35-man squad was:

Name Position Club Home Nation Notes
Martin Johnson (Capt.) Second Row Leicester England England
Neil Jenkins Full back Pontypridd Wales Wales
Tim Stimpson Full back Newcastle England England
Nick Beal Winger Northampton England England
John Bentley Winger Newcastle England England
Ieuan Evans Winger Llanelli Wales Wales
Tony Underwood Winger Newcastle England England
Allan Bateman Centre Richmond Wales Wales
Scott Gibbs Centre Swansea Wales Wales
Will Greenwood Centre Leicester England England
Jeremy Guscott Centre Bath England England
Alan Tait Centre Newcastle Scotland Scotland
Paul Grayson Fly-half Northampton England England
Gregor Townsend Fly-half Northampton Scotland Scotland
Matt Dawson Scrumhalf Northampton England England
Austin Healey Scrumhalf Leicester England England
Rob Howley Scrumhalf Cardiff Wales Wales
Paul Wallace Prop Saracens Ireland Ireland
Jason Leonard Prop Harlequins England England
Graham Rowntree Prop Leicester England England
Tom Smith Prop Watsonians Scotland Scotland
Dai Young Prop Cardiff Wales Wales
Mark Regan Hooker Bristol England England
Barry Williams Hooker Neath Wales Wales
Keith Wood Hooker Harlequins Ireland Ireland
Jeremy Davidson Second Row London Irish Ireland Ireland
Simon Shaw Second Row Bristol England England
Doddie Weir Second Row Newcastle Scotland Scotland
Neil Back Back Row Leicester England England
Lawrence Dallaglio Back Row Wasps England England
Richard Hill Back Row Saracens England England
Eric Miller Back Row Leicester Ireland Ireland
Scott Quinnell Back Row Richmond Wales Wales
Tim Rodber Back Row Northampton England England
Rob Wainwright Back Row Watsonians Scotland Scotland
Tony Stanger Winger Scotland Scotland Later addition to the tour
Mike Catt Fly-half England England Later addition to the tour
Kyran Bracken Scrum-half England England Later addition to the tour
Tony Diprose Back Row England England Later addition to the tour
Nigel Redman Second Row England England Later addition to the tour


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 Sharks 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 24 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

21 June 1997
South Africa  16-25 British and Irish Lions
Try: Du Randt 23' m
Bennett 44' m
Pen: Lubbe (1/1) 3'
Honiball (1/1) 50'
Report[2] Try: Dawson 73' m
Tait 79' m
Pen: Jenkins (5/6) 6', 33', 35', 43', 62'

Second Test

28 June 1997
King's Park, Durban
Attendance: 50000
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). Replacements: 16. van Heerden 17. Theron 18. Bennett 19. Wessels 20. Swanepoel 21. Dalton

British 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. Replacements: 16. Back 17. Healey 18. Miller 19. Catt 20. Williams 21. Leonard

Third Test

5 July 1997
Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Attendance: 62000
Referee: Wayne Erickson (Australia)

South Africa: 15 Bennett, 14 Snyman, 13 Montgomery, 12 van Schalkwyk, 11 Rossouw, 10 de Beer, 9 van der Westhuizen, 1 du Randt, 2 Dalton, 3 Theron, 4 Strydom, 5 Otto, 6 Erasmus, 7 Venter, 8 Teichmann, (capt). Replacements: 16 Honiball, 17 Garvey, 18 Drotské, 19 Swart, 20 van Heerden, 21 Swanepoel

British 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. Replacements: 16 Stimpson, 17 Bateman, 18 Healey, 19 Hill, 20 Williams, 21 Young


  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.
  2. ^ Hewett, Chris. "Rugby Union: First blood to roaring Lions". The Independent. Retrieved 2019.

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