History points to tight affair

All three of the Springboks’ previous Tests against the Lions in Durban have been nail-biters.

Saturday’s clash at King’s Park represents only the fourth Test between the two sides in Durban and an opportunity for Paul O’Connell’s men to level the tally at 2-all.

The Springboks were 7-3 winners the first time the two teams met in Durban back in 1924 and they then claimed a narrow 3-0 victory over the tourists in 1962.

More recently though, King’s Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Lions with comfortable victories over Natal and the Sharks, and it was of course the scene of Jeremy Guscott’s famous drop goal which secured a dramatic 18-15 win to seal the 1997 Test series.

The importance of winning the first Test of the series has been spoken about at length throughout the week and the stats support this belief.

This is the 13th series between the Springboks and the Lions, and history shows that the side that has won the first Test has gone on to take the series nine times.

Keo.co.za looks back at the three Lions Tests in Durban:

16 August 1924 South Africa 7 Lions 3, Kingsmead

The Lions arrived in Durban for the first Test on the back of some inconsistent form with just four wins from their opening nine tour games.

The highlights of the first Test were flyhalf Ben Osler’s drop goal at a crucial stage in the game and a brilliant line break by inside centre Wally Clarkson, which led to a try by winger Hans Aucamp.

Unfortunately, ecstasy turned to despair for Clarkson as he tore a muscle in the build up to the try and would never again go on to represent his country.

The Springbok pack, led by men like Theuns Kruger, Phil Mostert and Frank Mellish up front, were dominant at scrumtime and would go on to give the tourists a rough time for the rest of the tour.

21 July 1962 South Africa 3 Lions 0, King’s Park

After a 3-3 draw in the first Test in Johannesburg, the Sprinbok selectors decided to make several changes to the side for the second game in Durban.

The game itself was yet another tightly contested affair clouded in controversy. At half-time there was still no score, but late in the game Springbok flyhalf Keith Oxlee slotted a penalty kick which came from a tackle made from an offside position by Keith Rowlands.

While there was little protest about the decision, all hell broke loose over what unfolded in the last few seconds of the game.

There was a scrum on the Springbok 5m line and the hosts were pushed back and over the tryline before the two packs collapsed. Rowlands and his team-mates were convinced he had scored but referee Ken Carlson ruled that since he had not seen the ball being grounded, he could not award it and the Boks held on for the win.

28 June 1997 South Africa 15 Lions 18, King’s Park

As was the case in the first Test in Cape Town, the Lions series-clinching victory was based on some staunch defence and the ever-reliable boot of Welsh flyhalf Neil Jenkins.

Jenkins, who was played predominantly out of position at fullback on the tour slotted five successful penalties before Guscott’s dramatic drop goal in the closing stages of the game.

The Boks were down 5-6 at half time, but dominated in all departments of the game other than the scoreboard.

Joost van der Westhuizen, Percy Montgomery and Andre Joubert all crossed the tryline for the Boks. However, flyhalf Henry Honiball, Joubert and Montgomery missed a total of six attempts at goal spurning 15 points in the process.

The sides were deadlocked when the Lions won a lineout deep in Bok territory and put together a good rolling maul. The maul was eventually brought down and scrumhalf Matt Dawson put Gregor Townsend through a gap, but the flyhalf was stopped a couple of metres short of the tryline.

When the ball was recycled, Dawson looked up to see Guscott had dropped back slightly deeper, and the nuggety No 9 had no hesitation in sending the ball to his inside centre who calmly slotted the kick right in front of the sticks to seal a dramatic win.