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The incredible 1974 Lions treasure that Springboks boss Nienaber was given by his father

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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New Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has explained how his passion for the upcoming Test series against the Lions was ignited many years ago when he received a special present from his father – an autograph book containing the signatures of the famed squad Willie John McBride skippered in South Africa on their 1974 tour. 


The three-match Test series – which begins on July 24 – is only the fourth time that the Lions have toured South Africa since the mid-70s and Nienaber can’t wait for it to unfold having had his interest in the tourists piqued all those years ago by his autograph-hunting father whose collection would likely realise a high price if the book was ever auctioned.  

Nienaber was in Bloemfontein this week working with whatever Springboks were available to train following last Saturday’s announcement of a 46-strong squad that hasn’t been without its drama.

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No8 Duane Vermeulen, the 2019 World Cup final man of the match, requiring midweek surgery on a damaged ankle after he limped out of last weekend’s Bulls match in the Rainbow Cup while Irish-based duo Damian de Allende and RG Snyman were treated for burns following a fire pit accident involving petrol. 

“It is massive,” enthused Springboks boss Nienaber about the impending arrival of the Lions in South Africa for their eight-match tour. “It would be a pity if the British and Irish Lions were lost. There is such a rich history in it. 

“When we flew up to Bloemfontein I was on the flight with Naas Botha and he spoke about the 1980 Lions. We went back into international rugby in 1992 (after the ban for apartheid) and he would have loved a tour then but they only came in 97. People are talking about the Lions to us. It’s almost like World Cups, 95, 99, 2003, 2007, you remember where you were. Funny enough, my first autograph book that I got from my dad had all the British and Irish Lions of 1974. They toured that year. I was born in 1972 and he told me about every single guy who was on that British and Irish Lions tour and how it was a good tour for them.


“That is how massive it is for South Africa and that is just my little take on it. For the players it is colossal, it’s once every 12 years. The World Cup will always be the World Cup and I won’t say one is inferior to the other and one is superior, it’s just different… the specialness of the Lions, it probably will only come once in your career and that is what makes it so special.”

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The incredible 1974 Lions treasure that Springboks boss Nienaber was given by his father