1903 | South Africa

The British

& Irish Lions

Tour to New Zealand 2017

1903 | South Africa

Lions Rugby 1903 South AfricaBy the turn of the century, the days of easy pickings for the British & Irish tourists were gone for good. Having lost just one of 40 matches on their first two visits to South Africa , the Home Unions representatives could win only half of their 22 contests when they returned in 1903 and lost the Test series 1-0 with two internationals drawn.

The visitors' forward pack contained the captains of England, Ireland and Scotland, respectively Frank Stout, Alf Tedford and Mark Morrison, the latter also leading the side, which was managed by Johnny Hammond, who had now figured in all three tours to South Africa.

The three-quarter line was not considered of the same quality as the pack, with Wales centre Reg Skrimshire the only truly outstanding back. Skrimshire scored a superb try in the first Test - dummying a drop at goal before bursting through the South African defence - but had to play in every game to shore up the tourists' backline.

However, despite also including future Lions captain David 'Darkie' Bedell-Sivright and three other Scottish and Irish internationals, the pack never achieved its expected dominance and the tone of the tour was set by an opening sequence of three consecutive defeats.

Nevertheless, the tourists were unlucky not to have won the first Test, which ended in a 10-10 draw at the Wanderers ground in Johannesburg. The remaining two internationals were played in conditions of contrasting extremes; the second Test on bone hard ground at altitude in Kimberley, the third in a mud bath at Newlands.

The tourists were again good value for a draw at Kimberley - this time 0-0 - but had to concede second best in Cape Town as two tries and a conversion gave South Africa an 8-0 victory and their first series success. If it was any consolation to the beaten tourists, it would be more than half a century before their conquerors next lost a series at home.