Classic Lions matches: No.11 – The perfect start for Invincibles

The British & Irish Lions had not won a series against South Africa for 78 years so the first Test of the 1974 tour in Cape Town was going to prove imperative. [more]

Classic Lions matches: No.11 – The perfect start for Invincibles

The British & Irish Lions had not won a series against South Africa for 78 years so the first Test of the 1974 tour in Cape Town was going to prove imperative.

Winning was not necessarily a lost habit though, the Lions were still roaring from their trip to New Zealand three years earlier where they emerged with a 2-1 series victory.

But the prospect of taking on the Springboks, who had ruled the roost since 1896, was still a daunting one according to scrum-half Gareth Edwards.

“People may think it was a three-month holiday but when you play 24 or 25 games it is relentless,” he said.

“We were playing every Wednesday and Saturday, travelling and training between. It was hard.”

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The Lions had already played seven non-international matches prior to pitching up in Cape Town for the first Test on June 8, and had won them all.

However, despite Edwards’ commitment to the cause he was also seeing his mind drift back to Wales and his young family.

“It was an intense tour and especially difficult for me because my wife had given birth some four days before we left for South Africa,” he added.

“Suddenly I felt an added burden of responsibility that I had never had before.”

However Edwards was very much focussed on the game come the first whistle, as were the rest of his teammates. A drop-goal from the legendary Edwards and three Phil Bennett tries was enough to blow away the hosts 12-3 and they never looked back on their way to a 3-0 series win.

But Edwards claims it was the momentum from the New Zealand trip that drove them forward to write their names into the history books.

“The successful Lions tour of New Zealand four years earlier had created a certain expectation on us to perform,” Edwards continued.

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