Lions History

Historical Events

1891: South Africa

by David Walmsley - Genesis Publications | May 15, 2013 | May 16, 2013
The RFU followed Shrewsbury’s lead by sending their own side to South Africa in 1891 – but avoided the same financial fate by insisting Cape Colony prime minister Cecil Rhodes underwrite the trip.
The RFU followed Shrewsbury’s lead by sending their own side to South Africa in 1891 – but avoided the same financial fate by insisting Cape Colony prime minister Cecil Rhodes underwrite the trip.

Comprised solely of Englishmen and Scots, and led by Scotland wing Bill Maclagan, the squad went unbeaten through its 19-match programme, scoring 89 tries to one, with Blackheath, Cambridge and England three-quarter Randolph Aston grabbing 30 of them.

They beat South Africa in the country’s first Tests, although the hosts were hampered in choosing a team when most of the players selected for the final trial failed to show, due to “the doubtful aspect of the weather and the arrival of the mail”.

These pioneering Lions again left a legacy of their own, bequeathing the Currie Cup to the nation as a prize for the province giving the tourists their toughest match.

Griqualand West ‘s efforts in restricting their visitors to a 3-0 victory earned them the trophy, which remains the most sought-after prize in South African rugby.

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

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