Lions icon Willie John McBride reflects on the famous unbeaten tour of South Africa in 1974 before discussing how Warren Gatland’s men will get on against the Springboks in the remainder of their ongoing Test series.
McBride is perhaps the greatest of all British and Irish Lions, having picked up a record 17 Test caps across five different tours.
His crowning moment though came in 1974 as he led ‘The Invincibles’ to an undefeated tour across 22 games.
“1974 was my Everest. I had been there twice before in South Africa and we’d got thrashed. I was determined as captain that we’d go back there and do a lot better,” McBride stated.
“I never thought for one moment we’d come through unscathed and not lose a game. It was absolutely fantastic. This was really the pinnacle for me. It was just a dream to be captain of that team.”
The current team lead 1-0 after beating South Africa 22-17 last Saturday in the opening Test.
The Lions have the chance to seal their first series win against the Springboks since the iconic 1997 tour on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
McBride is optimistic the visitors will take an unassailable lead at Cape Town Stadium in the second Test, adding: “I believe that this team they have with them has all the skills that they require.
“The one thing that they’ve got to do is face up physically to South Africa because their game hasn’t changed, it’s all about the physical side.
“One of the things that worries me a little bit is I’m not convinced about their scrummage and I’m sure South Africa will have a very, very serious scrum. That worries me a little bit.”
Another second row totem in the form of Alun Wyn Jones leads the current setup.
The 35-year-old, who has often been described as the heir to McBride’s throne, has become the first player this century to feature in 10 Lions Tests.
The Irishman is full of praise for this year’s tour skipper, saying: “I’ve admired him for many years.
“I’m delighted to see he’s there. He’s one of what I’d call the honest to God forwards of the game. He’s in everything and he has tremendous strength and what’s more endurance.
“He’s been there, he’s been there, he’s been there all the time. I’m delighted for him. I hope he has a great tour.”
At times, there have been questions asked as to whether the Lions format remains viable in the modern world.
However, success on the pitch over the last two tours has reinvigorated the brand and McBride is determined that the concept should never be abandoned, arguing: “There’s no other game in the world where four nationalities come together.
“They can create that camaraderie which never finishes. There’s that bond that never dies. It’s amazing and that’s what that game means to me. It really is tremendous.
“To play in a game and go out with four different nationalities who have done everything, who have sacrificed a lot and who have learnt to live with each other and respect each other, it’s really terrific to be part of that.
“That is special. There’s nothing more special than that in any game that is played.”
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