Winning a Test series in South Africa is exceptional but going unbeaten for an entire Tour like The 1974 British & Irish Lions – that is something else.
From mid-May to late July the Invincibles won 21 matches out of 21, including the first three Tests to secure the series victory over the Springboks – a first in the 20th century.
All that remained was for the Lions to get up for one final game, the fourth Test in Johannesburg on July 27th.
Lions Legend: Mervyn Davies
Of course against a team as proud as South Africa, winning a fourth Test to complete a whitewash was always going to be a massive ask.
And while the Lions couldn’t quite manage that, their 13-13 draw at Ellis Park ensured they left South Africa unbeaten.
The game itself was very tight, with Jackie Snyman giving the Springboks the lead after just five minutes, only for Roger Uttley to hit back with a try, converted by Phil Bennett.
Snyman levelled the scores with a second penalty but Andy Irvine’s score just before half-time gave the Lions the lead at the break, 10-6.
On the hour Peter Cronje went over for South Africa’s only try to make it 10-10, and it looked like the Lions might finally lose a game when Snyman slotted a third penalty with ten minutes to go to put South Africa in front.
However Irvine knocked over a penalty with four minutes to go to draw the Lions level and clinch the only unbeaten tour in the post-war era.
A final record of 21 wins and a draw from 22 matches. It will take some going to ever match that record, let alone beat it.
Although as Irvine put it in Behind the Lions: “What we have done is left a wee scope there for another team to go one better than us. The challenge is still there!”
27 JULY 1974
SOUTH AFRICA (6) 13, BRITISH & IRISH LIONS (10) 13 (Ellis Park)
South Africa: Tonie Roux; Chris Pope, Peter Cronje(T), Jan Schlebusch, Gert Muller; Jackie Snyman(3P), Paul Bayvel; Niek Bezuidenhout, Piston van Wyk, Hannes Marais (capt); Moaner van Heerden, John Williams; Klippies Kritzinger, Jan Ellis, Kleintjie Grobler.
Bench: Rampie Stander, Malcolm Swanby, Gavin Cowley, Gert Schutte, Andre Bestbier, Kevin de Klerk
Replacements used: Stander for Bezuidenhout 57.
British & Irish Lions: JPR Williams; Andy Irvine(T/P), Ian McGeechan, Dick Milliken, John Williams; Phil Bennett(C), Gareth Edwards; Ian McLauchlan, Bobby Windsor, Fran Cotton; Willie-John McBride (capt), Christopher Ralston; Roger Uttley(T), Fergus Slattery, Mervyn Davies.
Bench: Mike Gibson, Tom Grace, John Moloney, Ken Kennedy, Sandy Carmichael, Tony Neary.
Scoring sequence: 5′ Snyman J.C.P. (P) 3-0, 10′ Uttley R.M. (T) 3-4, Bennett P. (C) 3-6, 25′ Snyman J.C.P. (P) 6-6, 35′ Irvine A.R. (T) 6-10, 60′ Cronje P.A. (T) 10-10, 70′ Snyman J.C.P. (P) 13-10, 76′ Irvine A.R. (P) 13-13.
Referee: Max Baise (South Africa).