Rugby champs past and present

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Lions fans show their support during a test match at Loftus Versfeld in 2009. Picture: David Davies / Getty Images
Lions fans show their support during a test match at Loftus Versfeld in 2009. Picture: David Davies / Getty Images

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The British and Irish Lions’ 2021 tour of SA will not only see superb rugby played by old  and respected adversaries, but honour legendary players of yesteryear whose names are part of that tradition.

Casper Steyn spent weeks fighting for his life after he was involved in a car accident 1km from his home in Centurion in 2010. Fortunately, he survived.

Steyn will be among those who should be honoured when the Bulls play the British and Irish Lions at Loftus Versfeld on July 17 next year.

Steyn was a superstar for the Bulls in their famous 1997 win against the British and Irish Lions at the same stadium.

The goal-kicking left-winger scored 20 points through a try, three conversions and three penalties, as the Bulls outscored the Lions four tries to three in a 35-30 win.

It was the Lions’ first defeat to a South African provincial team in the professional era and, since then, they’ve yet to lose to a South African team besides the Springboks.

The Cheetahs (24-26) and Western Province (23-26) came close to upstaging their illustrious opponents, and the Emerging Boks (13-13) claimed a moral victory at Newlands, Cape Town, in the 2009 tour.

But it’s the Bulls’ win that stands tall among South Africa’s provincial elite – and it’s Steyn’s performance that hasn’t been celebrated enough at all.

Steyn was a miracle man with the Bulls and scored 854 points in 59 matches with an average of 14.47.

To put that into context, the iconic Naas Botha scored 2 511 points in 179 matches – an average of 14.03.

The 1997 Bulls

Remembering the 1997 Bulls who beat the British & Irish Lions 35-30 at Loftus

15 Graeme Bouwer

14 Wynand Lourens (replaced by Grant Esterhuizen)

13 Johan Schutte

12 Danie van Schalkwyk

11 Casper Steyn

10 Roland de Marigny

9 Conrad Breytenbach

8 Schutte Bekker

7 Adriaan Richter

6 Nicky van der Walt

5 Derick Badenhorst (replaced by Ralf Schroeder)

4 Derick Grobbelaar (replaced by Gerhard Laufs)

3 Piet Boer (replaced by Jacques Taljaard)

2 Henry Tromp (replaced by Jannie Brooks)

1 Lourens Campher

When one thinks of the British and Irish Lions at Loftus Versfeld in the professional era, the immediate image is of Springbok utility back Frans Steyn creating something magical, ball in hand, and of Morné Steyn’s magnificent last-minute 50m penalty to win the second test and the series for the Springboks.

But it was the unheralded Casper Steyn who owned Loftus on June 27 1997 against the Lions.

Which of the non-international players will be the South African Casper Steyn of 2021?

The Lions visit South Africa only every 12 years and there has – understandably – been a massive demand for tickets in the ballot, which opened on September 2.

Lions

In the week since then, 250 000 South African residents have visited the official South African tour and ticket website, and more than 230 000 have applied for tickets.

This demand excludes the travelling British and Irish Lions supporters – 30 000 international supporters are expected.

The three test matches have been hugely oversubscribed and the demand of the South African rugby public will never be met by the number of available tickets.

SA Rugby’s CEO, Jurie Roux, acknowledged this would be the case when the tour dates were announced in December and confirmed a few months ago.

But Roux also stressed how important the five non-test matches are in the context of the tour, especially in terms of giving South African teams homeground advantage.

You want to play the best, and the best players are in South Africa.
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland

“We’ve ensured that there are more tickets available for our home fans than for visitors from overseas, as we want the Sea of Green to swamp the Red Tide,” said Roux.

“Given the response for tickets already balloted for, the chances are good that the ‘sold out’ signs will go up when the ballot closes on September 16.”

The tourists play five non-test matches, starting with the tour opener against the DHL Stormers at Cape Town Stadium on July 3. The visitors will also play the Cell C Sharks in Durban, the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria, a match against a South African invitational side in Port Elizabeth and another against the South African A side in Nelspruit.

Discussing the tour schedule, British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland raved about the five-match build-up to the three-test series and complimented the quality of the opposition.

“You want to play the best, and the best players are in South Africa. It’s pleasing to see the quality of teams we’re playing there because when you’re playing the Super Rugby sides who’ve been together the whole season; it’s going to be tough. But it’s the kind of preparation we’re looking for, leading into the three test matches against the world champion Springboks.”

Gatland, head coach of the Lions in Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017, toured South Africa in 2009 as an assistant coach. He experienced the strength of the local domestic sides, even though the Lions finished the tour unbeaten outside of the test series.

“We can’t wait to accept the rugby challenge and experience the culture of South Africa again. Those of us who’ve toured the country before know what an amazing place it is to visit and in which to play rugby.”

The ticket prices for the matches against the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls start at R250 and are only available to South African residents. The two midweek matches in Port Elizabeth and Nelspruit offer entry-level tickets for R100. These are also only for South African residents.

Roux has been consistent in his message that the tour’s commercial aspirations had to be balanced with affordability and accessibility to matches. 

The ballot process
The ticket ballot closes at 11.59pm on Wednesday September 16. 
The ballot process, used internationally for the most elite global sporting events, is the fairest method of determining ticket allocation. But please understand that requesting a ticket(s) through the ballot does not guarantee you a ticket.
Please visit the information drop-down menu on the home page of lionstour2021.co.za or enter the ticket ballot section for all details pertaining to the ticket ballot.
If you want a tutorial on how to process the ticket ballot, please click on the ticket ballot guide.
The ballot on this site is exclusively for South African residents.
All applicants will know before the end of the month whether or not they have been successful in their ticket requests.
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