Former Springbok captain and legendary lion tamer Morne du Plessis has warned of the dangers of underestimating the British and Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa.
Stephen Nell writes for Sport 24 that Du Plessis was the Bok skipper in 1980 when Bill Beaumont’s Lions were beaten 3-1, but also tasted defeat in 1974 when Willie John McBride’s side won their series in South Africa 3-0.
South Africa were the overwhelming favourites to win the series in 1997, but Carel du Plessis’s team lost the series 1-2.
“I think the big lesson is never to underestimate the Lions,” said Du Plessis, who played in the first two Tests in 1974 and captained South Africa in all four internationals in 1980.
“My concern is that South Africa’s heads may be in the clouds after the Super14. I would not like to see us underestimate the Lions and go into the series thinking we are favourites.
“We have to approach the series as if we are fighting for our lives. That is of the utmost interest.
“The other big thing I learned from the series’ in 1974 and 1980 is that it’s important to be consistent in team selections. It’s very important, therefore, to make the right selections for the first Test.”
In 1974, South Africa made numerous changes, and lost in Cape Town, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth before the Springboks managed a 13-all draw in the last test in Johannesburg.
This year, the series starts on June 20 in Durban, where the Lions clinched the 1997 series with Jeremy Guscott’s drop goal in their 18-15 victory. The match followed South Africa’s 16-25 defeat at Newlands in the first test.
The modern day programme of only three Tests places an enormous value on the first Test.
“If you fall one behind, you will really struggle to get back. It’s hugely important to win that first Test, especially if you play at home,” said Du Plessis.
The Lions have six games to find their rhythm before the first Test, while the Boks will not play together before then.
However, Du Plessis does not necessarily view that as a negative for the Boks.
“I think Peter de Villiers (coach) will stick to what he knows. How many more times does John Smit or Bismarck du Plessis have to throw the ball in at Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha? They have done it a thousand times,” said Du Plessis.
The manager of South Africa’s triumphant World Cup campaign of 1995 described a Lions tour as one of sport’s “great traditions”.
“New legends will be born on both sides. There is more meaning attached than to other Tests, which are played more regularly,” said Du Plessis.
“If you win these Tests, your name goes down in history.”Tweet