When the Lions came to town: The 1974 Rugby Tour to South Africa

When the Lions Came to Town vividly recreates a tumultuous rugby tour in 1974 that sent shockwaves through South Africa.
Alfred, Luke
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Title: When the Lions came to town
Subtitle: The 1974 Rugby Tour to South Africa
Editor: Luke Alfred
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
Imprint: Zebra Press
Cape Town, South Africa 2014
ISBN 9781770226531 / ISBN 978-1-77022-653-1
Softcover, 15 x 23 cm, 264 pages, some photographs

About: When the Lions came to town: The 1974 Rugby Tour to South Africa

From the introduction to When the Lions came to town: The 1974 Rugby Tour to South Africa: The south Africa of 40 years ago was a country of hearty contradictions. The fist of the local economy punched above its weight in international terms, yet the fingers of that fist held tight the country's riches. Skyscrapers were circled by highways that made them look like the cities of dreams, while lurking just over the horizon were townships with bad water and poor air, where there were few trees and fewer fields on which to play. A paranoid, racially obsessed regime feted in Washington was in command, yet the old orders of Africa were crumbling. The Portuguese were packing their suitcases, filling Luanda's lift shafts with concrete and scurrying home.

Only Ian Smith's Rhodesia (why always that formulation, as though Smith was Rhodesia?) stood between South Africa and what we were told was communism's dastardly red tide. The world looked occasionally at the continent's southern tip and wondered -with slight distaste, presumably - what might become of it all. Would the country be washed in rivers of blood? Or would the men in hats allow their power to melt quietly away? Possibly because rugby developed in conjunction with the rise of Afrikaner nationalism, and possibly because the game was played far away from the centres of the world whose respect white South Africans so desperately craved, the sport had always been tied up with white identity, even, at a push, white soul-fulness.

So when Willie John McBride's British Lions arrived in the country in the winter of 1974, it was no common tour. They had won splendidly in New Zealand in 1971 and there was a suspicion at large that British rugby was physically and intellectually superior to anything the Springboks might have to offer. Full of loveable anachronisms in tweed jackets, the dominion of local rugby was in an unhealthy phase. It might have been parochial, it might have been decadent, but whatever it was, it was in bad shape. It lacked technique, imagination and international exposure. And that was just the beginning.

Content: When the Lions came to town. The 1974 Rugby Tour to South Africa

Prologue: A dream of all that is good in rugby
British back-story
International arrivals
The Springbok template
The Cape of Good Hope
Running rugby on the Highveld
A history of South African rugby photographs
There's a Lion on my stoep
Panic in the garden (of Springbok rugby)
Last legs
Edward Heaths cheesy smile
Summary of tour fixtures and results
Abbreviations and acronyms