Happy hunting ground

If the Lions are looking for any inspiration ahead of their must-win Test in Pretoria today, they need look no further than the record books.

While the tourists’ most recent visit to Loftus ended in a shock 35-30 defeat at the hands of Northern Transvaal back in 1997, they have the upper hand over the Boks when it comes to Tests played in Pretoria.

In their four previous Test matches at the bastion of Northern Transvaal rugby, the Lions have enjoyed three victories, with the only defeat coming back in 1968.

The first meeting between the two teams at Loftus took place in1955 where the Lions hung on for a 9-6 victory while the last Test at the stadium saw the red army avoid the humiliation of a series whitewash with a 17-13 win.

Keo.co.za looks back at the four previous Tests at Loftus:

3 September 1955 – Springboks 6 Lions 9, Loftus Versfeld

The Boks made just one change to the team which ran out comprehensive winners in the second Test in Cape Town with Coenraad Strydom replacing Tommy Gentles at scrumhalf.

The hosts were not at their best, while the Lions, led by flyhalf Cliff Morgan, made fewer mistakes and deserved their 9-6 victory. The Lions stuck to a dull, yet effective, game plan while the Springboks simply struggled to ever really find their feet.

Lions centre Jeff Butterfield scored the only try of the game with Doug Baker adding a penalty, while Roy Dryburgh scored all the Boks points with two penalties.

8 June 1968 – Springboks 25 Lions 20, Loftus Versfeld

The Springboks, led by Dawie de Villiers, proved to be too good for the Lions and the final score was not a fair reflection of their dominance.

Tiny Naude, De Villiers and Frik du Preez scored tries for the hosts. Piet Visagie added two penalties and a couple of conversions while Naude also nailed two penalty goals.

Willie John McBride scored a try for the tourists and Irishman Thomas Kiernan, who was on top form in front of the sticks, slotted five penalties and a conversion.

Frik du Preez’s try was the highlight of the match. Receiving the ball from Mof Myburgh at a lineout, Du Preez slipped around several half hearted tackles before bursting clear.

Kiernan attempted to stop him, but was sent cart wheeling into touch as the great Springbok lock powered home for a wonderful try.

22 June 1974 – Springboks 9 Lions 28, Loftus Versfeld

After a fairly comprehensive defeat in the first Test in Cape Town, the Springboks made the first of many, mostly inexplicable, changes to the team which by the end of the tour saw 33 players being used in the four Tests.

The move didn’t help as the Lions pummelled the Boks 28-9 at Loftus – the biggest Test victory of the tour. JJ Williams bagged a brace while Phill Bennett, Gordon Brown and Dick Milliken also crossed the tryline for the visitors.

Two penalties and drop goal from the boot of flyhalf Gerald Bosch was all the Springboks could muster as the Lions strolled to an emphatic win.

The hosts were clearly rattled and would go on to make no less than 11 changes to the side for the third Test in Port Elizabeth.

12 July 1980 – Springboks 13 Lions 17, Loftus Versfeld

Having already lost the Test series 3-0, the Lions arrived in Pretoria off the back of a hard-fought victory over Griquas with only pride left to play for.

The Lions had been second best throughout the Test series, but they thoroughly deserved their 17-13 victory outscoring their opponents by three tries to one.

Naas Botha’s goal kicking abilities seemed to desert him on the day and at a stage where he needed just one more point to better Keith Oxlee’s record of 27 points against a Lions team.

John O’Driscoll, Clive Williams and Andy Irvine all touched down for the Lions while Ollie Campbell added a penalty and a conversion to see the Lions avoid the dubious distinction of becoming the only Lions squad to be whitewashed.

By Andrew Worling