Lions bid to emulate class of '59 - South Africa tour in numbers

By Sports Desk July 02, 2021

The British and Irish Lions will repeat a feat last achieved back in 1959 if they avoid a series defeat in South Africa.

Warren Gatland's side drew with New Zealand four years ago after a 2-1 triumph in Australia in 2013.

It is 62 years since the Lions were able to avoid defeat in a third consecutive tour and they will have to face the world champions without Alun Wyn Jones, who was replaced as captain by Conor Murray after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the win over Japan.

Confirmation on Sunday that three members of the Springboks squad have tested positive for coronavirus was a concern before the Lions boarded the plane to South Africa.

They are due to play five tour matches before the first Test against the Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on July 24.

Stats Perform picks out some of the standout Opta numbers for such an eagerly-awaited tour.

 

BOKS TO GO BACK-TO-BACK?

South Africa were 2-1 winners the last time the Lions toured in 2009, but they have not won back-to-back series since coming out on top in 1962 and 1968.

The Springboks have won eight, lost four and tied one of their previous series against the Lions.

South Africa can boast 23 victories to the Lions' 17, with six of the 46 previous showdowns ending in a draw.

There have been alternate winners in the past five series between the Lions and South Africa, a sequence the Lions will be hoping continues.

 

SOUTH-AFRICA-BORN FLYER AMONG DEADLY DEBUTANTS

While the loss of Jones and Justin Tipuric to injury in the win over Japan at Murrayfield were big blows, Gatland will have been encouraged by the performances of his debutants.

Three of the four try-scorers in Edinburgh were making their Lions bows, with Josh Adams, Duhan Van Der Merwe and Tadhg Beirne crossing.

South-Africa born Scotland wing Van der Merwe was the leading try-scorer in the Six Nations this year with six and beat 31 defenders in the tournament, breaking a record set by Brian O'Driscoll.

He can make a big impact against his country of birth along with Adams, the leading try-scorer at the 2019 World Cup with seven.

South Africa must also be wary of Louis Rees-Zammit, the youngest tourist aged 20, after he scored four Six Nations tries and had the most clean breaks (nine) in the competition, also gaining the most metres per carry (9.9m from 27 carries).

Beirne caught the eye against Japan and can play a big part in South Africa. He affected the most turnovers in the Six Nations with nine and was the first man to 87 rucks - the same number as Gregory Alldritt.

 

PASS MASTER MURRAY CAN DICTATE

Murray was surprised to be given the honour of skippering the Lions in the absence of the most-capped player in the history of international rugby.

The Ireland scrum-half has vast experience and can lead by example in his third Lions tour.

Murray has won two, lost two and drawn one of his previous Lions Tests and will look to pull the strings for the tourists.

The 32-year-old pivot has assisted 25 Six Nations tries, eight more than any other player, and holds the record for the most passes in the competition with 3,527. Peter Stringer is next on the list with 2,539.

 

KEY MEN CAN ROAR AGAIN

There were some outstanding performances in the Lions' tour of New Zealand as they drew 1-1 with the All Blacks.

Maro Itoje was among the heroes of that tour and the England lock will embrace the battle with the Springboks. He hit more rucks (162) than any other player in the Six Nations this year and amassed 16 turnovers.

Versatile back Liam Williams made the most metres by a Lions player on the tour in New Zealand four years ago with 344 from six games.

Gatland has been able to rely on Taulupe Faletau time and again over the years. The back-row made the most tackles (76) in New Zealand and beat more defenders (14) than any other forward.

Related items

  • Browns coach Kevin Stefanski calls situation with QB Deshaun Watson, RB Kareem Hunt 'normal' Browns coach Kevin Stefanski calls situation with QB Deshaun Watson, RB Kareem Hunt 'normal'

    A quarterback facing a suspension amid an NFL disciplinary case over sexual misconduct allegations and a running back demanding a trade after the team nixed his request for a long-term contract extension is all part of a normal training camp, as far as Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is concerned.

    After the Browns opened camp with QB Deshaun Watson being suspended for six games – which the NFL is appealing to seek a harsher penalty – running back Kareem Hunt sat out practices over the weekend while wanting a new deal. That request was denied, prompting Hunt to ask to be traded.

    There is no shortage of drama at the Browns' camp, but Stefanski believes it is par for the course.

    ''We are working, there is no distraction,'' Stefanski said on Sunday. ''I understand there are things that happen that certainly get attention, and that's OK... This is normal. This is NFL football, as far as I know.''

    Hunt, who is in the final year of a two-year, $13.25million extension, did return to practice on Sunday, while Watson continues to train and is currently available to play in Cleveland's pre-season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday.

    "I would tell you, respectfully, we really do focus on what we can control,” Stefanski added. “I understand that there are things that happen that certainly get attention, and that is OK.

    "This is a great game. I know our fans love this game and follow every step along the way.

    "For us, we really are focused on trying to get better. We are not where we need to be, and we have a lot of work to do. That is what we are focusing on."

    Limited to just eight games in 2021 due to calf and ankle injuries, Hunt had 1,145 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns for the Browns in 2020, while appearing in all 16 games.

    Cleveland made the playoffs that season with Hunt and Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb forming a solid one-two punch.

    The NFL's rushing leader in 2017 with Kansas City, Hunt joined the Browns in 2019 but sat out the first eight games that season after being suspended for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy while playing for the Chiefs.

    Watson, who was acquired by Cleveland in March, was suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

    The league, however, is seeking a longer penalty after two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct during massage treatments while he played for the Houston Texans.

  • Dortmund address Haller absence by signing Modeste Dortmund address Haller absence by signing Modeste

    Borussia Dortmund have completed the signing of experienced Bundesliga striker Anthony Modeste from Cologne for a reported fee of €5million.

    The 34-year-old has signed a one-year contract after it was revealed new arrival Sebastien Haller will miss a significant period due to being diagnosed with a testicular tumour last month.

    Haller had been signed as the replacement for Erling Haaland, who left for Manchester City earlier in the transfer window. 

    The former West Ham and Ajax striker underwent surgery in the first stage of his treatment, with Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl confirming Haller would be out "for a few months", but adding further treatment plans were still being discussed.

    On Sunday, Kehl confirmed Dortmund had reached an agreement with Cologne for Modeste, although he noted the move remained contingent on a medical being completed and personal terms agreed.

    With those formalities complete, the Frenchman is set to lead the line for the eight-time German champions in Haller's absence.

    Dortmund's new signing said: "I am very grateful to 1. FC Koln for the wonderful and successful time I had there. However, I have now decided to make a change.

    "The offer from BVB has given me a special chance to play in the Champions League at my age and to prove myself at the highest level. I am delighted about this opportunity and I promise that I will give everything for the success of the team and the club."

    Modeste has scored 83 goals in 190 Bundesliga games, spending two years at Hoffenheim before moving to Cologne for two spells either side of a short period in China and a brief time in France with Saint-Etienne.

    His knowledge of the league and aerial prowess will likely have been key reasons for Dortmund targeting him, with Modeste scoring eight headed goals in the first half of last season, the most by a player in the first half of a Bundesliga season since detailed data collection began in 2004-05.

    Dortmund won their first game of the Bundesliga campaign 1-0 against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday thanks to a Marco Reus goal, but did lose another new attacker Karim Adeyemi to injury in the first half at Signal Iduna Park.

     

  • Beleaguered All Blacks drop to all-time rankings low with Springboks defeat Beleaguered All Blacks drop to all-time rankings low with Springboks defeat

    New Zealand have dropped to an all-time low of fifth in the world rankings after losing to South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener on Saturday.

    The All Blacks started the defence of their title with a 26-10 defeat at the hands of the world champions at Mbombela Stadium.

    It was a third consecutive loss for New Zealand, representing their worst run since they were beaten five times in a row back in 1998.

    The Springboks piled more pressure on under-fire All Blacks head coach Steve Foster, who vowed to fight on after a first ever home series loss to Ireland.

    Another setback in Nelspruit has dropped New Zealand below England just over a year before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

    It is now five defeats in six Tests for the All Blacks, who face South Africa once again at Ellis Park this weekend with Foster's job seemingly on the line.

    Ireland are top of the rankings ahead of France, with the Springboks third.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.