"We’re the best, and we’re here to beat you."
Those were the words British & Irish Lions legend Willie John McBride roared every time he led the famous touring side out onto the field – no wonder the previously unflappable Springboks were stopped dead in their tracks in 1974.
McBride steered the Lions ‘Invincibles’ to 21 wins and a draw from their 22 matches in South Africa during that memorable three-and-a-half month Tour.
A veteran of four Tours already, the Irishman knew exactly what it took to do the famous red jersey justice, but that small act of defiance served as a reminder to those behind him as he led them onto the field.
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And while McBride featured in 13 clashes on that Tour, only one ‘member’ of the party was an ever-present in the side.
The Lions mascot, which McBride still treasures to this day, was carried onto the pitch with the side for every one of the 22 skirmishes against South African opposition.
And the 76-year-old Lions legend admits seeing himself holding the stuffed animal above his head in photos still brings the memories flooding back.
“It’s amazing to see this picture again; it was me leading the team out onto the field and that great little man Phil Bennett coming behind me,” said McBride.
“He was such a strength on that Tour. He wasn’t very big but playing against all these South African farmers, we brought him through that whole tour for three-and-a-half months, and he never got injured.
“We had this Lion mascot, which I still have – I brought it home with me and it’s something that I treasure – I used to have this habit when we ran out onto the field.
“I would hold it up high and say, ‘we’re the best.’ Seeing this photo again brings back all the special memories of that.
“We didn’t have the numbers of fans in the stands that they have nowadays, and they were virtually all South Africans that were in the stands of course.
“There were 15 of us against all of that, and I thought it was important to go out and let everyone know that we were there to beat them.
“Luckily we did that each time, which was great.”
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