After 12 years without a series win, former British & Irish Lions coach Graham Henry believes this year's squad will be desperate for victory in South Africa.
Led by coach Ian McGeechan and captain Martin Johnson, the Lions of 1997 defeated world champions South Africa 2-1 in a hard-fought series.
The first Test was won 25-16 thanks to a try from Matt Dawson and a Jeremy Guscott drop goal clinched the second Test 18-15 before the Springboks rallied in the third match for a 35-16 win.
Since then the Lions have gone on to lose 2-1 to Australia in a tension-filled tour in 2001 – under Henry’s guidance - and 3-0 against a New Zealand side coached by Henry in 2005 where the main topic of debate was the injury suffered by captain Brian O’Driscoll after a spear tackle by his opposite number Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu in the opening minutes of the first Test.
Henry described June’s series against the Springboks as a “major rugby contest”.
“The Lions have got a special quality that they bring to the game and they bring a huge amount of interest in the country that they tour. I’m sure it will be no different this time,” he said.
“The last time that they won was 1997 in South Africa and they will be desperate to repeat that performance and they’ve got the same head coach in Ian McGeechan.”
The former Wales boss also believes the series will be decided by the team which produces the best attacking style of rugby.
“I think it will be highly competitive if the Lions go out to play an attacking brand of rugby rather than try and get forward dominance and have a territory-based game,” he added.
“It will be interesting to see what philosophy they have and how they are going to try and beat the Springboks. I think it will be a very competitive series.
“They will play on very good fields which is conducive to playing ball-in-hand rugby. I think the side that can produce a better attacking style of rugby will win the contest.”
Henry will be keeping a close eye on the series given South Africa will be playing Australia and New Zealand in the Tri-Nations immediately afterwards.
“It’s a hugely competitive series and they will be right up for it,” he added. “If the players are like our guys in 2005 they will be very keen to be involved in that series.
“It will be hugely motivational for the Springboks. What knock-on effects it has into the Tri-Nations, I’m not sure.”
In 2005, the All Blacks followed up their Lions clean sweep with a sixth Tri-Nations crown.