Rugby Union: Durban rocked by power of Gibbs
Tim Glover finds the heart of the Lions defence is small but rock solid
Sunday 29 June 1997
In rugby terms a fitting analogy would be that of Don Clarke, the legendary New Zealand full-back, who kicked the British Lions to defeat in Dunedin in 1959. Clarke kicked six penalties to nullify the Lions' four tries and the All Blacks won 18-17. For Dunedin read Durban. The Lions have never stopped complaining about the iniquity of that result and nor will the Springboks about their defeat here yesterday.
The Springboks almost completely out-played the Lions but paid the ultimate penalty of not fielding a specialist goalkicker. In Neil Jenkins the Lions had a world-class goalkicker and for the second Test in a row the Pontypridd fly-half turned full-back did the business.
However, there was another side to the most improbable of results, in the heart of the Zulu kingdom, there was an echo of the inspiration of the men of Harlech and nobody embodied the never-say-die spirit more than Scott Gibbs. The Swansea centre was once again quite outstanding. Before the second Test his co-centre Jeremy Guscott described Gibbs as a "pocket battleship" and the "fastest prop I've ever played with".
Gibbs was not only almost unstoppable on the rare occasion he had the chance to attack yesterday, but was utterly immovable in defence and that is where the Lions spent almost 80 per cent of the match.
It was also noticeable just before the kick-off that it was the pocket battleship, rather than the captain Martin Johnson, who exhorted his troops to lay down their bodies for the cause. As the Lions went into a huddle before battle commenced - and what a battle it was - Gibbs stood in the middle of the ring of red and was almost maniacal in his pep talk.
He had done a similar thing in the first Test in Cape Town. When asked what it was that he had told his team-mates, Gibbs replied: "Get up you lazy bastards." This was rich coming from a player who had remained in bed until well past midday yesterday.
Gibbs made his intentions plain early on with a crushing tackle on the Springboks stand-off Henry Honiball - lauded as something of a big hitter himself. Honiball went on to have a disappointing match. When he was not missing kicks at goal he was kicking too long from hand.
Again, Gibbs made a try- saving tackle late in the first half on Andre Joubert, forcing the Springboks full-back to knock the ball forward after he had made a clean break to within 10 yards of the Lions' line.
South Africa threw everything, including a kitchen sink by the name of Os du Randt into winning the second Test and they will forever wonder how they lost it. Apart from Jenkins' goalkicking, Gibbs was one of the reasons. In an almost isolated Lions attack in the second half Gibbs took a crash ball and bulldozered through, amongst others, the enormous du Randt, whose first name in South Africa means Ox.
For this famous victory the Lions, the first professional tour party from the British Isles, will receive a pounds 5,000 bonus per man in addition to a tour fee of pounds 10,000. Gibbs should receive a bonus on top of the bonus.
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