As well as inspiring the class of â0074 to finish their 22-game tour unbeaten, McBrideâ00s wholehearted approach and his refusal to take a backward step, ensured he cemented his richly-deserved place in Lions folklore.
"It was a wonderful experience," said McBride, who made a total of 17 Test starts for the Lions between 1962 and 1974.
"It was amateur days in 1974. We had coal miners, steel workers, farmers, teachers, solicitors and accountants. To bring those people together from all walks of life and to go to South Africa to try and win a Test series was a fascinating experience.
"Not only were the players all different but you had to treat them all differently. There were guys you patted on the head, there were guys you kicked up the backside, and they all reacted differently and they all picked themselves up.
"Youâ00ve got to find all that out and see how the guys work best. I found that fascinating and I learned a hell of a lot on that tour. It was a tremendous experience."
Willie-John McBride led the Lions to a series win over South Africa in 1974
Throughout his stint as Lions captain, and during his 63 caps for Ireland, McBride was always known as a man who had no difficulty walking the walk. As a player and as a captain he always led by example, allowing his actions to speak louder than his words.
However, that didnâ00t mean the Ballymena lock didnâ00t know what to say and when to say it. In fact, it was quite the opposite. McBride knew exactly what speeches to give, what directions to bellow and the perfect manner in which to deliver his instructions or requests.
For McBride, that rare ability to lead both physically and verbally is still vitally important in the modern game. If the Lions are to repeat their South African successes of â0074 and â0097 later this summer, those traits will have to come to the fore within whoever Ian McGeechan chooses as his 2009 skipper.
"Itâ00s very important to say the right things and to assess things,"explained McBride.
"When you go away on a Lions tour and you get someone saying the wrong things, heads can drop. Youâ00ve got to keep guys up, youâ00ve got to be positive and youâ00ve got to keep lifting things all the time, because everyday wonâ00t be a good day.
"Youâ00ve got to have a guy who can come through that bad day and keep heads up."