Lions History

Historical Events

1903: South Africa

by David Walmsley - Genesis Publications | May 15, 2013 | May 16, 2013
Having won their first Test against the Lions in 1896, South Africa continued improving to take their first series victory on the next occasion they hosted visitors from the British Isles.
Having won their first Test against the Lions in 1896, South Africa continued improving to take their first series victory on the next occasion they hosted visitors from the British Isles.

The tourists were led by Scotland forward Mark Morrison and boasted 11 internationals among them but lacked finishing power in the three-quarters. Three defeats in their first three matches quickly set the tone.

Unusually, their best efforts came at altitude, in the first two Tests at Johannesburg and Kimberley which ended 3-3 and 0-0, although South Africa were without their star centre Japie Krige in the second match.

Frustrated by his half-backs’ reluctance to give him the ball in Johannesburg, Krige refused to turn out in Kimberley for another afternoon as a virtual spectator.

By the third Test, the selectors had come round to Krige’s way of thinking, naming him in the team with a new set of halves more to his liking. Krige duly pulled the strings as South Africa won 8-0 to take the series.

As a forward, Morrison had a clear idea where the blame for defeat lay: with the backs, of course. “Had our three-quarters been up to expectations,” he said, “I think we should have won every match.”

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

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