Lions History

Historical Events

1938: South Africa

by David Walmsley - Genesis Publications | May 15, 2013
The Lions ended the inter-war period on a high note with a dramatic – and unexpected –victory over South Africa in Cape Town.

The Lions ended the inter-war period on a high note with a dramatic – and unexpected –victory over South Africa in Cape Town.

The world champion Springboks’ confidence had looked well placed (the selectors had not bothered with such trivia as holding trials or informing Danie Craven that he was captain) as they won the opening two Tests at a canter, and the team spent the week of the final Test arguing over the accommodation they had been given.

Only 18,000 turned up at Newlands, where Lions captain Sam Walker asked his men “to play as they had never played before, even if they had to leave in an ambulance.”

As it turned out, Walker left chaired aloft by his opponents after his side containing all eight of the squad’s Irishmen had turned a 13-3 half-time deficit into a 21-16 victory.

The ambulance had been more likely to be needed the previous week in Port Elizabeth, where temperatures hit 93 in the shade for what became known as ‘The Tropical Test’.

Despite missing flanker Ebbo Bastard, who had to pull out of the team when all his black farm workers were jailed for “taking part in a faction fight”, South Africa won 19-3 to take the series.

Adapted from the forthcoming book The Lions: The Complete History of the British and Irish Rugby Union Team

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