Thursday 28 May 2009

Willie John McBride's 99 call, South Africa 1974


Perhaps more so than in Australia or New Zealand the Lions have a special relationship with South Africa. The Lions have enjoyed their most famous (1974) and recent (1997) success in Springbok country and I guess this must breed a certain desire for revenge amongst the South African team/public.

I read a recent interview (I think it was i the Irish Times) with John Smit, the world cup winning Saffer captain, and he was quoted as saying that the Lions tour meant as much to his team if not more than the world cup. Because the Lions were special, a once in a career opportunity. South Africa has waited 12 years for this chance to avenge the team of 1997, who were also world cup champions and firm favourites.

The video below is from the successful Lions tour to Afrique du Sud in 1974. Determined to match the Springbok's legendary 'tenacity' at the breakdown Lions captain Willie John McBride decided to (literally) beat the Boks at their own game. Whenever a Lions player was in trouble, the call of '99' would be the signal for all 15 Lions players to throw themselves at the nearest Springbok. The idea being that the referee couldn't send them all off.

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