'Geech' can take solace as fans save Lions from extinction

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The Independent Online

Ian McGeechan, the Lions' head coach and the quintessential tourist, was dignified if shatteringly disappointed at the loss of the Test series in Pretoria yesterday. At least "Geech" can rest assured that the brand which has been the backdrop to his rugby life will carry on.

Two thrilling and close-run contests mean the Lions will not be humiliated even if they wind up as 3-0 series losers for the second tour running. They have now lost a record seven offshore Tests in a row; which suggests a fundamental futility in forcing four teams together with scant preparation time. Overall though, these good-humoured but determined Lions' fans have answered the question hanging over this fourth tour of the open era.

Which was whether the principal interest resided in a banking sponsor (HSBC) looking for a good news story in a credit crunch, a satellite TV company flogging 10 matches of varying quality live from South Africa or a host union cashing in on what the tour manager Gerald Davies called "rugby's last great adventure".

Despite predictions otherwise, the red-jerseyed ranks of Lions supporters were present in force in Durban last week and at Loftus Versfeld yesterday. The stadiums were never full for the provincial matches, but high ticket prices were to blame and the average attendance of 35,000 is higher than the last South Africa tour of 1997. The Australians slated to be the Lions' next hosts in 2013 must adjust accordingly. The show will go on.

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