Gibbs makes his mark and Lions take series
The Rugby Paper|April 12, 2020
Brendan Gallagher delves into some of rugby’s most enduring images, their story and why they are still so impactful
Brendan Gallagher

What’s happening here?

It’s the evening of June 21 1997 at Newlands Cape Town and the first Test of a three-match series between South Africa and the British Lions is getting underway. Wales centre Scott Gibbs – only recently returned from a spell in Rugby League with St Helen’s – is hitting powerful Springboks wing Andre Snyman with an absolute pile driver of a tackle that shook him and the Boks to the core.

Before the game South Africa, the reigning world champions, were strong favourites although everybody acknowledged this Lions side might fiercely contest the issue. What the Lions needed was a couple of dominant tackles and collisions to make a statement and raise the adrenaline levels. Tim Rodber obliged with a couple of crunching hits which seemed to elude the snappers and then Gibbs produced this gem, brilliantly captured by Alex Livesey. The travelling contingent of Lions supporters went wild, it was truly game on.

Nobody can beat South Africa in their own backyard unless you match them physically. Here Gibbs in not just matching Snyman, he is absolutely destroying his opponent.

What’s the story behind the picture?

The 1997 Lions were managed and coached by two men – Fran Cotton and Ian McGeechan – who knew exactly how to beat South Africa down there having been members of the 1974 tour party. Assistant coach Jim Telfer had tasted defeat there in 1968 and was thirsting for revenge.

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