Tomorrow sees the first game of the Lion’s tour of South Africa. The Lion’s has always been a big part of my sporting life ever since 1997 when the Lion’s beat the Boks (then world champions) 2-1. Lions matches are the best of 3 tests for those that don’t know. Yes, I come from a rugby family – so I suppose you could say I’m predisposed to like the sport – but there’s something very special about the British & Irish Lions. Every four years, four nations (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and the best rugby players in our land come together under one cause – winning against the best that the soputhern hemisphere has to offer. Rivalries are temporarily put to one side and four nations become one – all singing each others national anthems along the way.
The Lions unites four nations in a way unlike any other sport. The Lions fans are the best in the world – I have no doubt about that. They simply outnumber, outsing and outdrink any of the three nations they tour every four years – South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It was an amazing site to see the Lions dominate (in sheer numbers) the stadium back in the 1st test of the Australian tour in 2001. The Aussies even had to place scarves, hats and yellow t-shirts on seats before the 2nd test – trying to stem the tide, passion and extremely loud noise generated by the red army. “Lions, Lions, Lions”. We’re similar in many ways to our cousins in the southern hemisphere – but different in many others. We tour better than they do, that’s for sure.
There are some iconic memories from years gone by. The Gibbs tackle (above) that ‘rocked the world’, the same man sitting 22 stone Os Du Randt on his arse, Waltzing O’Driscoll in 2001, Dawson’s dummy, the Bentley try in 97, Jason Robinson sidestepping Chris Latham in what was no more than 1 metre of space…the list goes on. This is why I love the Lions – oh yeah, it’s always nice to get one over the Boks too, it is there No.1 sport after all.
Sky Sports really provides a great build up for the tour and I genuinely believe that their involvement has taken the tour onto a new level. Fingers crossed we produce the magic and passion of 1997. Can’t wait…