As the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa draws ever closer, we take a look back at every tour from 1997 to 2017 and pick out our favourite moment from each tour.
We kick things off in 1997, it's 21st June 1997, the location is Cape Town, South Africa, the time is 11am and we are just hours away from the kick off of the 1st test. The scene is set, as Jim Telfer delivers possibly the greatest rugby speech of all-time.
21 June 1997, Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa
The easy bit has passed. Selection for the Test team is the easy bit. You have an awesome responsibility on the eight individual forwards’ shoulders, awesome responsibility. This is your f***ing Everest, boys. Very few ever get a chance in rugby terms to get for the top of Everest. You have the chance today.
Being picked is the easy bit. To win for the Lions in a Test match is the ultimate, but you’ll not do it unless you put your bodies on the line. Every one jack of you for 80 minutes. Defeat doesn’t worry me. I’ve had it often and so have you. It’s performance that matters. If you put in the performance, you’ll get what you deserve. No luck attached to it. If you don’t put it in, then we’re second-raters.
They don’t respect you. They don’t rate you. The only way to be rated is to stick one on them, to get right up in their faces and turn them back, knock them back. Outdo what they do. Outjump them, outscrum them, outruck them, outdrive them, outtackle them, until they’re f***ing sick of you.
Remember the pledges you made. Remember how you depend on each other at every phase, teams within teams, scrums, lineouts, ruck ball, tackles.
They are better than you’ve played against so far. They are better individually or they wouldn’t be there. So it’s an awesome task you have and it will only be done if everybody commits themself now.
You are privileged. You are the chosen few. Many are considered but few are chosen. They don’t think f*** all of us. Nothing. We’re here just to make up the f***ing numbers. No one’s going to do it for you. You have to find your own solace — your own drive, your ambition, your own inner strength, because the moment’s arrived for the greatest game of your f***ing life.
The Lions won the first Test 25-16.
It’s June 30th 2001, it’s the first test of the Australia tour. Location the Gabba Brisbane. The lions have been going well, one slip up against Australia A, but big wins against The Waratahs and NSW country build up to an epic first encounter with the then World Champions.
A 22 year old Brian O’Driscoll is on his first Lions tour and has the potential to create havoc in the Australian backline. Having already set up a try for Welsh winger Dafydd James, O’Driscoll was about to make Lions legend with one of the best solo tries in the tours history.
A messy restart and a quick Balshaw break sees a maul set up on the half way line and it happens.
Howley to Wilkinson (the lions had quite the backline), Wilkinson to O’Driscoll on a flat line, he shimmy’s and he’s through the tackles of Jeremy Paul and Nathan Grey leaves the legendry George smith for dust. Next is Chris Latham, he steps off his right and shrugs off the arm and he’s away. Joe Roff and Andrew Walker are in hot pursuit, the Australian finishers are on his heels, Roff gets to him at the 5 meter but it’s too late and BOD touches down and cements his name in Lions lore.
The Lions go on to win the game emphatically 29-13.
In a tour that was marred by nasty injuries to Brian O’Driscoll and Lawrence Dallaglio, the Lions shared many memories, not least the craic from Donncha O’Callaghan and such like, keeping spirits high throughout.
Our top moment from 2005 comes from the eve of the 1st test against the All Blacks, Lawrence Dallaglio was given the honour of handing out the match shirts to the starting XV – an honour never before bestowed upon a current tour player. Sadly it was to be Lawrence’s final act on tour in 2005 as he had picked up an awful broken ankle injury in the first tour match against Bay of Plenty.
The speech that ‘Lol’ delivered was filled with passion and raw emotion; delivered from the heart.
Unfortunately the Lions ended the test series with a 3-0 whitewash against New Zealand.
The 4th of July sees the Lions enter the 3rd test of the 2009 tour. The tour is lost, 2 close encounters with the Boks see’s the lions start the game with all hope of a series victory gone. An emotional speech from the legendary “Geech” has given the lions something to play for.
“Today will determine what we are, it will say everything about us”
“We can leave a legacy in this last game, in this jersey for the players to pick up in four years' time”
The lions take on board and create an iconic Lions moment.
Riki Flutey receives the ball on the half way, on the drift he gets on the outside of Wynand Olivier, Odwa Ndungane is back on his heels awaiting the hit, Flutey puts in the chip.........it lands 5-meters in from the touchline, Full back Zane Kirchner can’t get to it and watches it bounce, he’s waiting for Flutey, ready to make the try saving tackle, but a deft flick pass inside takes him out of the equation. Shane Williams is there, a slight juggle as he adjusts and he’s away. Jaque Fourie follows him in knowing he won’t catch him as Williams dots down between the posts.
The lions go on to win the game 29-8 and leave Geech with a winning legacy in his lions' career. Who was to know it would set the lions up for unbeaten series until the lions were to revisit South Africa in 2021.
2013 – Australia. Plenty of memorable moments from this tour down under – George North and Alex Cuthbert’s incredible tries in the 1st test – Richard Hibbard’s clash with George Smith - Andy Farrell’s ‘Hurt Arena’ Speech.
But our number 1 most memorable from the tour is the forfeit Simon Zebo pulled after rolling the dice. He’s forced to call to his club coach – telling him why he should be the club captain for the new season!
It’s 35 minutes in to the first test in Aukland, and New Zealand lead the Lions 13-3, Aaron Cruden puts a dink deep in to the lion's half, Anthony Watson covers back and passes to Liam Williams. It’s a fairly innocuous kick which Watson has time to collect, however the ever-lurking AB's skipper Kieran Read back from a long layoff has already read the play and is lining full back Liam Williams up.
Williams takes the ball and like a matador he steps aside the charging Read. A right foot step takes him the long way around Cruden in to the danger zone of Sonny Bill Williams. Enter Ben Teo – a clever block sees Williams get through the gap and charge up the field. Dagg makes the tackle, but player of the series Jon Fox Davies is on hand with support, he passes to Daly who goes in to out on Anton Lienert-Brown, then back to Davies, who goes out to in with last man Beauden Barrett and the evergreen Sean O’Brien is waiting to complete one of “the great test tries”.
The Lions went on to tie one of the modern eras most intense tours.