Ahead of this weekend’s final Test match between the Boks and British & Irish Lions, SA Rugby magazine picks out the top-four series deciders from previous tours.
1997 – Guscott breaks Bok hearts
The 1997 tour to South Africa will live long in the memory of Lions fans as perhaps their greatest moment. After winning the first Test, they had the opportunity to seal the series in the second.
Despite being outscored three tries to nil, the Lions profited off poor goal-kicking from the Boks to keep the score at 15-15 (Neil Jenkins scoring all five of the Lions’ penalties).
As the second Test moved into the final moments, centre Jeremy Guscott broke South African hearts by slotting a drop goal to give the Lions a 18-15 lead with which they clinched the series.
2001 – Advance, Australia fair
Martin Johnson, leading the Lions for the second time after his heroics in ’97, was up against the world champion Wallabies led by George Gregan.
After a convincing Lions victory in the first Test, and a reversal of fortunes in the second, the stage was set for a decider between the Lions and Australia.
The scores were level at 23-23 deep into the second half before Australia snatched victory courtesy of two penalties from flyhalf Matthew Burke. It was the first time Australia had triumphed over the Lions in a Test series.
2009 – Morne Steyn heroics
The 2009 Lions series in South Africa was decided in the second Test in what would come to be known as ‘The Battle of Pretoria’. The Springboks, having won the first Test, had a chance to take the series and avenge their 1997 defeat.
The contest during the Test was ferocious, with many today still regarding it as the most physical game of rugby ever played. The Boks fell behind in the second half but struck back through an exceptional try by Jacques Fourie in the corner.
With the scores level at 25-25 in the dying moments, flyhalf Ronan O’Gara tackled Fourie du Preez in the air and the Springboks were awarded a penalty. From 55 metres out at his home ground of Loftus, a young Morne Steyn stepped up to strike the game-winning penalty and seal the series for South Africa.
2017 – The drawn series
The 2017 Lions series in New Zealand will go down in history as one of the most enthralling and most controversial. The All Blacks were dominant in the first Test, but the Lions struck back in the second after Sonny-Bill Williams saw red for a dangerous tackle on Anthony Watson.
With the scores level and the clock almost in the red in the final Test, New Zealand kicked off to the Lions. The ball was dropped forward from the restart into hooker Ken Owens, who was offside.
A penalty was awarded which would have afforded New Zealand a relatively simple opportunity to win the Test series. However, after much protestation from Lions captain Sam Warburton, the referee changed his decision and awarded a scrum instead. The scores remained level and the series was shared.