Girish Mahajan (Editor)

99 call

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In rugby union, the "99" call was a policy of simultaneous retaliation by the Lions during their 1974 tour to South Africa. The tour was marred by on-pitch violence, which the match officials did little to control and the relative absence of cameras compared to the modern game made citing and punishment after the fact unlikely.

Lions' captain Willie John McBride therefore instigated a policy of "one in, all in" - that is, when one Lion retaliated, all other Lions were expected to join in the melee or hit the nearest Springbok. By doing so, the referee would be unable to identify any single instigator and so would be left with the choice of sending off all or none of the team. In this respect, the "99" call was extremely successful, as no Lions player was sent off during the tour.

According to former Wales international and Lion John Taylor, the 99 call resulted from an incident that occurred during the Lions' 1968 South Africa tour that saw John O'Shea become the first and to date only Lion to have been sent off during a Lions tour. In 2013, Taylor recalled that during a Lions tour match against Eastern Transvaal,

A scuffle broke out amongst the forwards (handbags – no damage) and Tess (O'Shea) was isolated by half a dozen home forwards. When the dust settled the home referee singled him out (the only Lion involved) and dismissed him. . . . Willie John rushed down from the stand to offer protection, dealing peremptorily with one idiot as he tried to attack Tess, and this was the genesis of the infamous '99' call six years later in 1974.

At the battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium, one of the most violent matches in rugby history, there is famous video footage of J.P.R. Williams running over half of the pitch and launching himself at Moaner van Heerden after such a call, something that Williams says he is not proud of.

The battles created one of rugby's immortal tales: [Gordon] Brown hit his opposite number, Johan de Bruyn, so hard that the Orange Free State man's glass eye flew out and landed in the mud. "so there we are, 30 players plus the ref, on our hands and knees scrabbling about in the mire looking for this glass eye," recalled Brown in an interview before his death from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2001, aged 53. "Eventually, someone yells 'Eureka' whereupon de Bruyn grabs it and plonks it straight back in the gaping hole in his face." Shortly after the death of the player so affectionately known around the rugby-playing world as "Broon of Troon", de Bruyn presented Brown's widow with the glass eye in a specially made trophy.

References

99 call Wikipedia


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