Classic Lions matches: No.12 – Invincibles seal series amidst ’99’ brawl

Having inflicted the Springboks' heaviest ever defeat, Willie John McBride's Invincibles headed to Port Elizabeth to secure the series - but it was the '99' call that stole the headlines. [more]

Classic Lions matches: No.12 – Invincibles seal series amidst ’99’ brawl

Having inflicted the Springboks’ heaviest ever defeat, Willie John McBride’s Invincibles headed to Port Elizabeth to secure the series – but it was the ’99’ call that stole the headlines.

The tourists had prepared for a feisty South African side and McBride decided an all-for-one approach was needed. If one Lion was confronted, the rest would jump instantly to his defence.

The result scoreline was another great triumph for the British & Irish Lions, as they followed up a 28-9 victory in Pretoria with a 26-9 win on the south coast.

A pair of tries for former commonwealth sprinter JJ Williams and eight points from Andy Irvine’s boot – including a penalty from his own half – did much of the damage.

But it was Williams’ namesake JPR, the Wales full-back and orthopaedic surgeon, whose commitment to the ‘99’ provided a lasting memory.

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The call was made and the Welshman ran half the pitch to launch himself at Moaner van Heerden – a reminder to a physical South African side that the Lions would not be bullied.

McBride recalled: “I think it was something that happened once or twice and they got the message that you didn’t mess with these Lions.”

Gareth Edwards added: “I got blamed for that incident but I didn’t know anything about it. I was walking the other way when JPR went hurtling past.”

England centre Geoff Evans, a banker by day, played down the prevalence of the ‘99’ but admitted its importance in preventing the hosts from getting early an upper-hand.

“In South Africa you expected some fisticuffs but we mainly left that to the forwards – and JPR of course,” he said.

“Willie and Alun Thomas had been out in South Africa before the tour to take a look at the opposition.

“They knew South Africa would try and intimidate us and it was drilled into us not to accept that.

“The ‘99’ call was just another example of our camaraderie, how we would all stick together and do anything for our fellow man.”

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