sport news Jim Telfer recalls his 1997 rallying cry as new breed of Lions prepare to meet ...

sport news Jim Telfer recalls his 1997 rallying cry as new breed of Lions prepare to meet ...
sport news Jim Telfer recalls his 1997 rallying cry as new breed of Lions prepare to meet ...

The Lions are back at the base camp where Jim Telfer famously inspired his forwards to conquer rugby's 'Everest' in 1997 — and the 2021 team will hope to reach similar heights on Saturday.

Generations of British and Irish players have been galvanised by the great Scot's passionate call to arms 24 years ago. Telfer's words have gone down in folklore.

It was in this iconic city that he gathered captain Martin Johnson and the other men who would have to do battle with the mighty South Africa pack a few hours later in the opener at Newlands.

Jim Telfer (left) with Martin Johnson inspired the Lions squad of 1997 with his infamous speech

Jim Telfer (left) with Martin Johnson inspired the Lions squad of 1997 with his infamous speech

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Now, Warren Gatland's squad are finalising their preparations for the first Test in the same hotel as their revered predecessors. When they engage the same enemy on Saturday, Telfer's speech will still encapsulate their daunting task.

With the finest forwards from the four home nations sitting around him in silence, he sought to goad them into unleashing the ferocity that would be needed to overwhelm the confident, dismissive hosts. 'This is your f***ing Everest, boys,' said Telfer, in an attempt to stir a defiant reaction from his men. 'Very few ever get a chance in rugby terms to get to the top of Everest. You have the chance today.

'They don't think f***-all of us. The only way to be rated is to stick one on them; get right up in their faces, turn them back, knock them back, out-do what they can do, out-jump them, out-scrum them, out-ruck them, out-drive them, out-tackle them, until they are f***ing sick of it.' After emphasising local criticism of the Lions' scrum, he concluded: 'The moment is arriving for the greatest game of your f***ing lives.'

Many of Gatland's squad would be able to recite the whole speech off by heart, after watching it countless times on the Living With Lions documentary. Telfer only watched it once, shortly after it was released, but he was a central figure in the footage.

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Ahead of the Lions' return to South Africa this year, the book This Is Your Everest, by Tom English and Peter Burns, brought the 1997 campaign back to life, with evocative testimony from many of those who were involved.

Telfer had a long, distinguished career as a player and coach, but his involvement in that first tour of the professional era, culminating in a 2-1 series win for the Lions, is what people always want to talk about. 'They think my life started in 1997,' he joked. The great speech was delivered in the Holiday Inn at Newlands — now the Southern Sun. Telfer knew no matter how well the Lions had been playing up to that point, the forwards had to recognise the scale of what awaited them.

'Actually, when I listen to that speech, I cringe because it's not very good,' he told Sportsmail.

'I've spoken better to players than that. I had a sense they knew how important the occasion was. I hadn't meticulously written down that speech, but I had the main points I wanted to get across. After that, they understood the task was surmountable, but very, very

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