2009 | South Africa
The 10 match tour turned into an outstanding success both on and off the field as the Lions rekindled their magic and pushed John Smit's Springboks all the way in one of the greatest Test series of the professional era.
The Lions won six and drew one of their provincial matches, but went down 2-1 in a pulsating Test campaign. It was a tour on which the old values of the Lions were re-born with Ian McGeechan back at the coaching helm for the fourth time and Gerald Davies alongside him as team manager.
The first Test in Durban turned into a huge frustration for the Lions as they fell foul of the referee in the opening scrimmage exchanges and found themselves behind after a good start to the first-half by the home side. But two tries from England flanker Tom Croft brought them back into the game, along with some vital changes to the front row during the game.
The Boks hung on to win 26-21, but found themselves under the cosh in Pretoria in the second Test. Schalk Burger was sent to the sin-bin for eye gouging in the opening minute and the Lions leapt into a 10-0 lead and were 16-8 to the good at the interval. The game was one of the most physical ever seen in South Africa and by the end the Lions had lost Adam Jones, Jamie Robert, Gethin Jenkins and Brian O'Driscoll with tour ending injuries.
The boot of Stephen Jones extended the Lions lead to 19-8, but a home revival saw them surge back and take the lead 25-22 with a Jacques Fourie try and Morne Steyn touchline conversion. The Lions dug deeper than ever before into their reserves to allow Jones to level the scores with two minutes to play and take his match tally to 20 to set a record for a Lion in South Africa.
It looked as though the Lions would get a shot at levelling the series in Johannesburg in the third Test until Ronan O'Gara was deemed to have jumped into Fourie du Preez as he chased his own kick ahead. There were 54 metres between Morne Steyn and the Lions posts. It was a last shot for glory on his home pitch for the Northern Transvaal outside half. He hit it straight and true and the series was won by the world champions with a 28-25 victory.
The patched-up Lions battled back to win the final Test in Johannesburg 28-9, equalling their biggest ever victory in South Africa, to end the tour on a high and leave the tens of thousands of Lions fans ready to converge on Australia in 2013.