In South Africa, local fans are literally reliving a siege thanks to touring Brits and Irishmen. The British and Irish Lions and their fans have opened up plenty of wounds, not only of the Great War of 1900, but also of 1997 and 1974, in particular.
Back in ’74, Willie John McBride and his touring Lions bruisers launched the most vicious attack (probably the worst ever seen on a rugby field) when they used the infamous call to arms known famously as Call 99 in the dirtiest game in history, aka the Battle of the Boet.
Since then, South Africans have had to endure a near eternity of “brawl talk” as smug Brits and Irishmen have savoured any and every opportunity to revel in its memory when you’d think most decent fans would hurriedly bury the incident in their skeleton closets.
And possibly to add insult, the standard operating procedure for the British & Irish Lions and their fans when in South Africa is to maximize antagonism. Thus, a full military kit is an ever-present reminder of the Empires’ triumphs.
Fans in red coats and pith hats waltz around like they’ve just captured Pretoria.
In 1974, McBride and company claimed that the Springboks threatened them with physical dominance, which resulted in a co-ordinated punch up led by the captain himself.
Now, in 2009, Phil Vickery and his pack of forwards present the same physical menace to the Springboks. And I’d argue that if the Boks were ever entitled to Call 99, this would be it.
Get the brawling out first and put the Lions on the back foot, then start an aggressive game with huge hits.
With a 3-0 series victory on everyone’s lips in South Africa, wouldn’t you consider this route?