Rugby Union: Triumph for professional approach

Tim Glover sees the tourists stun the Springboks with their commitment
Click to follow
Nelson Mandela stayed away but Bishop Desmond Tutu arrived at Newlands sporting his Springbok jersey. Seventeen years ago, when the British Lions last toured the Republic, Tutu would not have been seen dead in the green and gold. How times have changed.

In 1980, the Lions lost the first three Tests of a four-match series. Yesterday's resounding victory gave the first professional Lions an outstanding chance of taking the series. This was a professional triumph in every respect. "They played exceptionally well and took their chances," Gary Teichmann, the Springboks captain, said. "We will have to take a long hard look at ourselves."

The Springboks knew it was going to be tough, but not this tough. The selection of Neil Jenkins at full-back was thoroughly vindicated as the Pontypridd stand-off kept the Lions in the hunt with a succession of penalties. Jenkins's kicking was crucial to the cause as the Springboks threatened to cut loose.

The Lions conceded two tries. The first, to the giant prop Os du Randt, certainly looked ominous for the Lions. Du Randt fed off a line-out take from Mark Andrews and was driven over the line. At that point Paul Wallace, Du Randt's opposite number, was having his work cut out to remain upstanding. The Irishman was penalised on a couple of occasions for collapsing the scrum.

When Teichmann broke through an attempted tackle by Scott Gibbs to lay on a try for the replacement Russell Bennett, it put the Springboks 13- 12 ahead. After Wallace had fallen off-side at a ruck Henry Honiball kicked the penalty and at that stage the Lions trailed 16-12.

Colin Hawke, the New Zealand referee, did the Lions a huge favour by disallowing a try from Bennett on the grounds that it was a forward pass. Jenkins, in addition to his goal kicking, supplied the scoring pass to the left-wing Alan Tait. It has to be said that Jenkins's pass looked forward, but if it was good enough for Hawke, nobody else was going to argue.

Despite an initial pounding in the most physical contest these Lions have experienced so far, they came back magnificently in the final quarter. The Springboks were driven on to the back foot and Matt Dawson scored a remarkable try in the 73rd minute which completely changed the complexion of the match. Dawson would not have played but for the injury to the Lions number one scrum-half Robert Howley, but the Northampton player took his chance brilliantly.

Dawson produced a clever piece of legerdermain to confound the Springbok's defence, selling a clever dummy which was bought by, amongst others, his opposite number Joost van der Westhuizen. Dawson's act of opportunism gave the Lions the lead again at 20-16. With their tails up the Lions finished the stronger side and the final strike by Tait sent the barmy army into seventh heaven.

Dawson was again involved with the admirable Tim Rodber and it was a crunching run by Scott Gibbs that broke the heart of the Springbok's defence.

The Springboks had gambled by not playing any of their front-line men in the matches building up to the First Test. The policy backfired and it is the Lions who travel to Durban for the Second Test next Saturday scenting blood.

Comments