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1896 | South Africa

Lions Rugby 1896 South AfricaThe British Isles' third rugby tourists returned to South Africa in 1896 to face a stiffer test than they had encountered five years previously.

They were only marginally less successful than their predecessors, though, winning the international series 3-1 and going through their 17-game provincial programme unbeaten, scoring 204 points and conceding 45 in all matches.

The tourists had experience on their side in the shape of two veterans of the 1891 campaign, captain Johnny Hammond and fellow forward Froude 'Baby' Hancock, while for the first time the party contained a major Irish element.

Having won two Championships and a Triple Crown in the previous three seasons, Ireland were the dominant force among the Home Unions at the time, and contributed six internationals to the 21-man squad, including the famous Magee brothers.

Hammond's squad was considered to have an outstanding pack but be comparatively weak in the three-quarter line. Louis Magee and England full-back Fred Byrne were the stars of the backline, but it was a forward eight inspired by Ireland 's Tommy Crean that laid the foundations for success.

Facing a South African side captained by Ferdie Aston, brother of 1891 Lions star Randolph Aston, the star turn of the 1891 British team, the tourists dominated at forward throughout but could only score two tries in an 8-0 win.

South Africa scored their first tries in international rugby in the second Test but still went down 17-8. In the third, the hosts actually led but were overhauled to go down 9-3, with Byrne kicking a conversion and a drop goal to set a record that stood until 1960 as the only man to score 100 points on tour there.

The South Africans' improvement continued, however, and culminated in the tourists' first defeat in the country, a 5-0 reverse at Newlands. Ironically, it was the previously flawless Byrne who lost possession to spark the attack from which Alf Larard scored the game's only try.

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