Lions win the Battle of Boet Erasmus
The Lions took their first series off the Springboks for 78 years by winning the third Test of a four-match rubber 26-9 in Port Elizabeth. The match is remembered less for the result than for being one of the most brutal in rugby history, infamously known as the 'Battle of Boet Erasmus'. The South Africans, under massive pressure after defeats in the first two Tests, had dropped all but five players and the side that took the field had, so the Guardian reported, "a demented look as they took to the field". The match was unrelentingly physical even without the fights. In one exchange Johan de Bruyn's glass eye flew out when he was punched, causing a brief respite as all the players scrambled in the mud looking for it. When another fight broke out, JPR Williams ran 60 yards to punch second row Moaner van Heerden - "That's not something I'm proud of," he admitted. After the game Lions skipper Willie-John McBride was almost in tears. "Now I can die happy," he said. "We did what we came to do."
Pierre Villepreux kicked a late 50-metre penalty for France to seemingly snatch victory before a last-minute Earle Kirton try gave New Zealand a 12-9 opening Test win in Christchurch.
Wales centre Gavin Henson was forced to deny reports that he was poised to retire from the game. Henson, 27, was reported by The Sun to have told friends of his disillusionment with rugby after a series of injury problems. Henson later took a sabbatical from the game, missing the entire 2009-10 campaign and placing doubts on his future. When he did return he continued to make more headlines on the gossip pages than the sporting ones.
Trefor Evans led the Lions to a 22-19 win against the New Zealand Maori at Eden Park. There were 52,000 present, a record midweek crowd for New Zealand rugby, to see Sid Going score two tries for the Maori. The hosts could have squared the game in the last minute, a penalty kick from a handy position sailing wide.
Natal faced the Lions for the first time ever. The tourists were too strong for the province, winning a tight match through a Cherry Pillman conversion, 18-16. Pillman scored one of the four Lions' tries in the first of two meetings inside four days between the two sides.
The Lions played the Northern Transvaal for the first time, winning 20-12 at the Caledonian Ground in Pretoria. Jim Unwin and Vesey Boyle scored a try apiece for the tourists and Russell Taylor converted both their efforts as well as landing two penalty kicks.