On This Day: Guscott gives gutsy 1997 Lions an historic series victory


On This Day: Guscott gives gutsy 1997 Lions an historic series victory

Lawrence Dallaglio remembers it as the most physical game he ever played in, Jeremy Guscott will never forget his drop goal and Neil Jenkins was at his metronomic best on a special night in Durban.

But for all the iconic moments surrounding The 1997 British & Irish Lions second Test win over South Africa that sealed the series, there is one oft-forgotten fact – the Lions did not actually play all that well.

At least according to head coach Sir Ian McGeechan and forwards coach Jim Telfer who had to endure a nerve-shreddingly close clash at King’s Park.


“I actually thought that a lot of our players froze in that second Test and we didn’t play well at all. We just hung on in there,” remembered Telfer.

Google Ad Manager – In Article

“Neil – to give him his due – just kept slotting the goals. We must have been in positions to kick goals because he is not the longest kicker in the world but he is so accurate.”

Indeed on a dramatic night the Lions were outscored by three tries to none and had to rely on the world-class kicking of Jenkins to keep them in touch.


By contrast, the reigning world champion Boks could not buy a goal kick – a combination of Henry Honiball, Percy Montgomery and Andre Joubert all tried their luck and failed with six attempts in total – including all three of their conversions.

“People say they didn’t have recognised kickers, they did,” recalled Keith Wood.

“They had really good kickers but they crumbled under the pressure of the series. Whatever it is about the Lions, there is crazy intensity, crazy. And things happen in that sort of pressure.”

After Matt Dawson’s dummy and Alan Tait’s decisive score in the first Test – the Lions knew the wounded Springboks would be out for revenge in Test two.

“You could tell that they meant business from the moment they rampaged down the stand in Durban and the crowd were baying for our blood,” said Dawson.

“From the kick off, the South Africans just ran at us, bouncing people off, it was just this wave after wave of South African attack and you just knew that it was coming but we also knew that they were talented individuals in the backline and we had to defend well.

“When we didn’t there could have been a slight capitulation or a little bit of fear factor and a question mark about what we were doing but the strength of that team and the individuals and the adversity that we had been through all came out in the end.”


Every single member of the match-day squad played their part in a compelling clash and they had to ride out an early storm from the Boks.

Jenkins then kicked them into a 6-0 lead against the run of play before the great Joost van der Westhuizen scored the hosts’ first try.

And just before the break they managed a second, Montgomery the beneficiary this time to put them 10-6 in front at the interval.

Jenkins pulled a penalty back soon after the resumption but Andre Joubert’s score stretched the lead out to six points.

Neil Jenkins

But still the Welsh full-back could not be stopped.

“The pressure mounted with each kick but every time I took my mind away from Durban and imagined myself back on the training field in Church Village,” he explained.

“Same routine and, thankfully, same result. People always ask about pressure kicks, but that is what goal-kickers live for. You don’t hope the chance never comes, you pray it does.

“The fifth and final penalty was probably the most important of my career, but I approached it as any other and managed to keep the pressure at bay.”


With the scores tied at 15-15 apiece after Jenkins’ fifth penalty and time almost up, the stage was set for Jeremy Guscott.

It may not have been the prettiest of strikes but after Wood’s clever kick through had established field position – all the centre’s drop goal needed to do was go over and so it did.

“In the second Test, there wasn’t, other than Jeremy’s drop goal and maybe Scotty Gibbs bowling Os Du Randt over, there wasn’t a huge amount going on but then there were key moments, decisions, line-outs won, big tackles made that made the difference and spurred us all on and the whole squad had been doing that throughout the whole tour,” added Dawson.

The Lions were back in front and now faced an agonising three-minute wait until full time. But they held on to make a magic memory.

“It will absolutely be one of my fondest memories in my career just because it’s very different when you go down to South Africa in adversity and not as favourites,” added Dawson.

The final word must go to the great McGeechan however. “Of all my rugby moments, the sound of that final whistle in Durban in 1997 was probably the sweetest,” he said.

28 JUNE 1997
Growth Point Kings Park

South Africa: Andre Joubert(T); Andre Snyman, Percy Montgomery(T), Danie van Schalkwyk, Pieter Rossouw; Henry Honiball, Joost van der Westhuizen(T); Os du Randt, Naka Drotske, Adrian Garvey; Hannes Strydom, Mark Andrews; Ruben Kruger, Andre Venter, Gary Teichmann (capt).
Bench: Fritz van Heerden, Dawie Theron, Russell Bennett, Boeta Wessels, Werner Swanepoel, James Dalton,
Replacements used: van Heerden for Teichmann 2, Teichmann for van Heerden 5, van Heerden for Kruger 50, Theron for Garvey 67.

British & Irish Lions:
Neil Jenkins(5P); John Bentley, Jerry Guscott(D), Scott Gibbs, Alan Tait; Gregor Townsend, Matt Dawson; Tom Smith, Keith Wood, Paul Wallace; Martin Johnson (capt), Jeremy Davidson; Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill, Tim Rodber.
Bench: Neil Back, Austin Healey, Eric Miller, Mike Catt, Barry Williams, Jason Leonard,
Replacements used: Back for Hill 57, Healey for Tait 76, Miller for Rodber 77.

Scoring sequence: 15′ Jenkins N.R. (P) 0-3, 30′ Jenkins N.R. (P) 0-6, 35′ Van Der Westhuizen J (T) 5-6, 40′ Montgomery P.C. (T) 10-6, 48′ Jenkins N.R. (P) 10-9, 54′ Joubert A.J. (T) 15-9, 66′ Jenkins N.R. (P) 15-12, 74′ Jenkins N.R. (P) 15-15, 76′ Guscott J.C. (D) 15-18.

Referee: Didier Mene (France).
Attendance: 50000.

Previous story Drop-goal hero Guscott reflects on memorable 1997 Lions Tour
Next story Lions Legend: David Duckham