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Lions greatest moments: Willie John McBride's '99' call - Telegraph

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Sunday 23 February 2020

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    Great Lions rugby moments: Willie John McBride's '99' call

    The 1974 Lions Tour to South Africa was famous, not only for 22 games unbeaten and a 3-0 triumph in the Test series, but also for the infamous “99” battle cry – the call to arms that resulted in one of the most documented punch-ups in rugby history.

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    By Giles Mole

    8:00AM BST 20 Apr 2009

    The Lions concluded that the Springboks dominated their opponents with physical aggression and intimidation and, led by the legendary Willie John McBride, decided to match fire with fire.

    At that time there were no video cameras or citing officials to deal with violent play and so McBride's Lions decided to get their retaliation in first.

    Should any one of the tourists be targeted by the South Africans for a bit of rough stuff, the Lions postulated that a South African referee would probably not send off all of the Lions if they retaliated en masse against what they perceived to be "blatant thuggery".

    Famous video footage of the 'battle of Boet Erasmus' shows full-back JPR Williams running over half the pitch and launching himself at Moaner van Heerden.

    Later, when asked about the “cry to stamp out the troublemakers”, as the late Gordon Brown called it, Williams said: “Well, yes, it was a one-in, all-in philosophy. It left the ref with a real problem. He couldn't send anyone off because if he did, he'd then have to send off the lot of us.”

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