South Africa national rugby union team
|Union||South African Rugby Union|
|Nickname(s)||Springboks, Springbokke, Boks, Bokke, Amabokoboko|
|Emblem(s)||the Springbok and the Protea|
|Captain(s)||Jean De Villiers|
|Most caps||John Smit (111)|
|Top scorer||Percy Montgomery (893)|
|Most tries||Bryan Habana (53)
(correct as at 6 October 2013)
|South Africa 0 – 4 British Isles
(30 July 1891)
| South Africa 134 – 3 Uruguay
(11 June 2005)
| England 53 – 3 South Africa
(23 November 2002)
|Appearances||5/7 (First in 1995)|
|Best result||Champions, 1995 & 2007|
The South Africa national rugby union team (known as the Springboks) represents South Africa in rugby union. The Springboks play in green and gold jerseys with white shorts, and their emblems are the Springbok and the Protea. The team has been playing international rugby since 30 July 1891, when they played their first Test Match against a British Isles touring team.
Although South Africa was instrumental in the creation of the Rugby World Cup competition, the Springboks did not compete in the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991 because of anti-apartheid sporting boycotts of South Africa. The team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the tournament. The Springboks defeated the All Blacks 15–12 in the final, which is now remembered as one of the greatest moments in South Africa's sporting history, and a watershed moment in the post-Apartheid nation-building process. As a result of the 2007 World Cup tournament the Springboks were promoted to first place in the IRB World Rankings, a position they held until July the following year when New Zealand regained the top spot. They were named 2008 World Team of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards.
South Africa regained their title as champions 12 years later, when they defeated England 15–6 in the 2007 final. The Springboks also compete in the annual Rugby Championship, along with southern-hemisphere counterparts Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. They have won this championship on three occasions in sixteen years. They also play Test matches against the various rugby-playing nations. They are currently ranked second in the world by the International Rugby Board. The current captain is Jean de Villiers, and the current coach is Heyneke Meyer.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early years
- 1.2 First internationals
- 1.3 Springboks
- 1.4 Inter war
- 1.5 Post-war era
- 1.6 1960s
- 1.7 1970s
- 1.8 1980s
- 1.9 1990s
- 1.10 New millennium
- 2 Apartheid and transformation
- 3 Controversy over the emblem
- 4 Strip
- 5 Home grounds
- 6 Records
- 7 Players
- 8 Coaches
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The first British Isles tour took place in 1891, with the trip financially underwritten by Cape Colony Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes. These were the first representative games played by South African sides, who were still learning the game. The tourists played and won a total of twenty matches, conceding only one point in the process. South Africa's first Tests were played, although South Africa did not exist as political unit until 1910. In a notable event of the tour, the British side presented the Currie Cup to Griqualand West, the province they thought produced the best performance on the tour.
The British Isles' success continued on their 21 game tour of 1896. The British Isles won three out of the four Tests against South Africa. South Africa's play improved markedly from 1891. Their forwards were particularly impressive, and their first Test win in the final game was a pointer to the future. For the first time South Africa had worn myrtle green shirts, which their captain, Barry Heatlie, borrowed from his Old Diocesans club. Rugby was given a huge boost by the early Lions tours, which created great interest in the South African press.
Rugby was so popular that in 1902 there was a temporary ceasefire in the Second Boer War so that a game could be played between British and Boer forces. The game had spread among the Afrikaner population through POW games during the Boer War, and afterwards Stellenbosch University became a training ground for future players and administrators.
In 1903 the British Isles lost a series for the first time in South Africa, drawing the opening two Tests before losing the last 8–0. In all, the tourists won just 11 of their 22 tour games. By contrast, South Africa would not lose another series—home or away—until 1956.
Paul Roos was the captain of the first South African team to tour the British Isles and France. The team was largely dominated by players from Western Province, and took place over 1906–07. The team played 29 matches; including Tests against all four Home Nations. England managed a draw, but Scotland was the only one of the Home unions to gain a victory.
During this tour the nickname Springboks was first used. There is often confusion as to the springbok symbol being worn before the name was invented, but this may be down to the fact the tour manager, J.C. Carden, spoke of having no 'uniforms or blazers' with the icon, though he did not appear to mean the jerseys. It was reported in the Daily Mail on 20 September 1906, seven days before the first match, that 'The team's colours will be myrtle green with gold collar... and will have embroidered in mouse-coloured silk on the left breast a Springbok'. Carden later stated:
|“||...No uniforms or blazers had been provided... That night I spoke to Roos and Carolin and pointed out that the witty London Press would invent some funny name for us if we did not invent one ourselves. We thereupon agreed to call ourselves Springboks and to tell Pressmen that we desired to be so named. I remember this distinctly, for Paul (Roos) reminded us that "Springbokken" was the correct plural. However, the Daily Mail, after our first practice, called us the Springboks and the name stuck. I at once ordered the dark green, gold-edged blazers...||”|
Newspaper reporters were to call the team "De Springbokken", and later the Daily Mail printed an article referring to the "Springboks". The team thereafter wore blazers with a springbok on the left breast pocket. Historically the term 'Springbok' was applied to any team or individual representing South Africa in international competition regardless of sporting discipline. This tradition was abandoned with the advent of South Africa's new democratic government in 1994. The trip helped heal wounds after the Boer War and instilled a sense of national pride among South Africans.
The South Africans crossed the channel to play an unofficial match against a 'France' team drawn from the two Parisian clubs: Stade Français and Racing Club de France. The official French team were in England at the time. The Springboks won 55–6 and scored 13 tries in the process.
The 1910 British Isles tour of South Africa was the first to include representatives from all four Home unions. The team performed moderately against the non-test parties, claiming victories in just over half their matches. The tourists won just one of their three Tests.
By the first World War New Zealand and South Africa had established themselves as rugby's two greatest powers. A New Zealand Army match tour of South Africa in 1919 paved the way for a Springbok tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1921. The tour was billed as "The World Championship of Rugby". The All Blacks won the first Test 13–5, which included a try by All Blacks winger Jack Steel who had sprinted 50 metres with the ball trapped between his right hand and back to score. The Springboks recovered to win the second Test 9–5 thanks to a Gerhard Morkel drop-goal. The final Test was drawn 0–0 after being played in terrible conditions—resulting in a series draw.
The 1924 British and Irish Lions team to South Africa struggled with injuries and won only nine of 21 games. They lost all four Tests to the Springboks, but despite the results, the tour produced some attractive rugby. This was the first side to pick up the name Lions, apparently picked up from the Lions embroidered on their ties.
The All Blacks first toured South Africa in 1928, and again the Test series finished level. Despite playing most of the second half with only 14 men, with a dominant scrum and fly-half Bennie Osler, the Springboks won the first Test 17–0 to inflict the All Blacks' heaviest defeat since 1893. The All Blacks rebounded to win the second Test 7–6. After a Springbok win in the third Test, the Springboks needed to win the fourth to secure a series victory. The New Zealanders bought back Mark Nicholls for his only Test of the series, and their captain Maurice Brownlie told the team a week before the Test that "Under no circumstances whatever is anyone of you so much as to touch a rugby ball until we play the Springboks in the last test." Their tactics were successful and the All Blacks won 13–5 to draw the series.
Despite winning South Africa's second Grand Slam, the Springbok tourists of 1931–32 were an unloved team. They had a jumbo pack and a kicking fly-half in captain Bennie Osler. Their tactics of kicking for territory earned them criticism both in South Africa and abroad. It was successful however, the team winning against England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as defeating all their Welsh opponents for the first time.
In 1937 South Africa toured New Zealand and Australia and broke the deadlock with a series win in New Zealand. Their 2–1 series win prompted them to be called "the best team to ever leave New Zealand". Despite the All Blacks winning the first Test, the Springboks' won in the third Test 17–6 and scored five tries to none. The All Blacks' loss was considered a humiliation in New Zealand.
The British Isles toured South Africa again in 1938, winning more than half of their normal matches. The Springboks easily claimed the first two tests. But the tourists recorded a surprise win in the third Test, the first Lions win in South Africa since 1910.
Danie Craven was appointed coach in 1949, and started his coaching career with a bang. The Springboks won ten matches in a row, including a 4–0 whitewash of New Zealand on their 1949 tour to South Africa. Prop Okey Geffin helped kick the Springboks to victory—they won all four Tests despite the All Blacks scoring more tries in three of them.
The 1951-52 team that toured Europe was considered amongst the finest Springbok sides to tour. The team won the Grand Slam as well as defeating France. Hennie Muller captained the side after original captain Basil Kenyon suffered a serious eye injury. The South African highlight of the tour was a 44–0 defeat of Scotland. The defeat of Scotland included nine tries, and was a record at the time. The team finished with only one loss, to London Counties, from 31 matches.
In 1953, Australia toured South Africa for the second time and although they lost the series they were given a standing ovation after defeating South Africa 18–14 in a thrilling 2nd Test at Newlands. Wallaby Captain John Solomon was chaired off the field by two South African players. This was the first Springbok defeat for 15 years. During their 1955 tour to South Africa, the Lions won 19 and drew one from the 25 fixtures. The four-test series ended in a draw.
In 1956, Springboks toured Australasia the All Blacks won its first series over the Springboks, in what Chris Hewett called "in the most bitterly fought series in history." Surprise selection Don Clarke from Waikato—nicknamed the Boot—kicked the decisive penalties in the final Tests.
South Africa had defeated France 25–3 at Colombes Stadium in 1952, and when France toured South Africa in 1958 they were not expected to compete. Georges Duthen described the mood of the French players before their first Test in 1958: "They were going into battle. A Battle for France. And they hadn't a hope..." France exceeded expectations and drew 3–3 with after a drop goal to French scrum-half Pierre Danos and unconverted try to South Africa's Butch Lochner. The French then secured a Test series victory in South Africa with their 9–5 victory in front of 90,000 spectators in Johannesburg. The French feared the South African forwards, especially their scrum, and focused much of their training before the series on improving the "South African" style of their forwards. The decisive moment of the match was French forward Jean Barthe's tackle on Jan Prinsloo near the French try-line prevented a certain try. The momentum then swung to France who scored drop-goals—one each to Pierre Lacaze and Roger Martine—to secure the historic victory.
Even before the apartheid laws were passed after 1948, sporting teams going to South Africa had felt it necessary to exclude non-white players. New Zealand rugby teams in particular had done this, and the exclusion of George Nepia and Jimmy Mill from the 1928 All Blacks tour, and the dropping of Ranji Wilson from the New Zealand Army team nine years before that, had attracted little comment at the time. However, in 1960 international criticism of apartheid grew in the wake of The Wind of Change speech and the Sharpeville massacre.
From this point onward, the Springboks were increasingly the target of international controversy and protest. The All Blacks toured in 1960, despite a campaign based on the slogan of "No Maoris, No Tour", and a 150,000 signature petition opposing it. The Springboks avenged their 1956 series defeat by winning the Test series 2–1 with a Test drawn. The first match was won 13–0 by the Springboks with two tries to Hennie van Zyl. New Zealand journalist Noel Holmes said after the match "I hang my head in shame for having suggested that your forwards might be slow, even unfit." The All Blacks won the second Test 11–3 which they did so with a dominant forward pack and the tactical kicking of Don Clarke. The players selected for the third and fourth Tests formed the core of Springboks side for the next three seasons. The third Test was drawn 11–11 after a last minute sideline conversion from All Black Don Clarke. The deciding Test was won 8–3 by the Springboks with the decisive try scored by Martin Pelser.
Later that same year the Springboks themselves toured, and led by Avril Malan they defeated all four Home unions for their fourth Grand Slam. On a four-month, 34 game sweep through Europe they played a ruthless, forward-oriented game in which intimidation was a key part, and opposition players suffered a string of controversial injuries. However, they lost their final game 6–0 against the Barbarians in Cardiff, beaten when perhaps the Barbarians' pack played an uncharacteristically pragmatic game.
In '1962 the British Isles, won 16 of their 25 games on their tour to South Africa, but did not do so well in the Tests—losing all three. In 1963 the touring Wallabies beat the Springboks in consecutive Tests, the first team to do so since the 1896 British team.
Wales toured South Africa and played several games and one Test in 1964—their first overseas tour. They lost the Test against South Africa in Durban 24–3, their biggest defeat in 40 years. At the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) annual general meeting that year, the outgoing WRU President D. Ewart Davies declared that "it was evident from the experience of the South African Tour that a much more positive attitude to the game was required in Wales... Players must be prepared to learn, and indeed re-learn, to the absolute point of mastery, the basic principles of Rugby Union football."
South Africa had a disastrous year in 1965, when lost in a short tour losing to Ireland, Scotland, and in a second and long tour to Australia (twice) and New Zealand (three times) while winning just once against New Zealand.
The planned 1967' tour by the All Blacks was cancelled by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union after the South African government refused to allow Maori players.
In 1968 the Lions toured and won 15 of their 16 provincial matches, but lost three Tests and drew one.
Next year the 1969-70, Springbok tour to Britain and Ireland found a new spirit and confidence had developed in Home nations rugby, and the tourists lost two of their seven games in Wales—against Newport and a composite side from Monmouthshire. Wales nearly claimed their first win against the Springboks as the game ended 6–6. The Springboks lost the Test matches against England and Scotland, drawing the one against Ireland. Throughout the tour however, large anti-apartheid demonstrations were a feature, and many matches had to be played behind barbed wire fences.
In 1970 the All Blacks toured South Africa once again—after the 1967 stand-off, the South African government now agreed to treat Maoris in the team, and Maori spectators, as 'honorary whites'. The Springboks won the test series 3–1.
The Springbok tour of Australia in 1971 began with matches in Perth, then Adelaide and Melbourne. The Springboks won all three Tests, scoring 18–6, 14–6, and 19–11. As in Britain three years before however, massive anti-apartheid demonstrations greeted the team, and they had to be transported by the Royal Australian Air Force after the trade unions refused to service planes or trains transporting them. Although a tour of New Zealand had been planned for 1973, it was blocked by New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk on the grounds of public safety.
The Lions team that toured South Afric in 1974 led by Willie John McBride was unbeaten over 22 games, and triumphed 3–0 (with one drawn) in the Test series. A key feature was the Lions' infamous '99 call'. Lions management had decided that the Springboks dominated their opponents with physical aggression, so decided "to get their retaliation in first". At the call of '99' each Lions player would attack their nearest rival player. The idea was that a South African referee would be unlikely to send off all of the Lions. At the "battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium"—one of the most violent matches in rugby history—JPR Williams famously ran over half of the pitch and launched himself at 'Moaner' van Heerden after such a call.
The 1976 All Blacks tour of South Africa went ahead, and the Springboks won by three Tests to one, but coming shortly after the Soweto riots the tour attracted international condemnation and 28 countries boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics in protest, and the next year, in 1977, the Commonwealth signed the Gleneagles Agreement, which discouraged any sporting contact with South Africa. In response to the growing pressure the segregated South African rugby unions merged in 1977. Four years later Errol Tobias would became the first non-white South African to represent his country when he took the field against Ireland. A planned 1979 Springbok tour of France was stopped by the French government, who announced that it was inappropriate for South African teams to tour France.
The Lions toured South Africa in 1980. The team completed a flawless non-Test record, winning 14 out of 14 non-Test matches on the tour. But they lost the first three Tests before winning the last one.
The 1981 tour of New Zealand went ahead in defiance of the Gleneagles Agreement. South Africa lost the series 2–1, but the tour and the massive civil disruption in New Zealand had ramifications far beyond rugby.
South Africa sought to counteract its sporting isolation by inviting the South American Jaguars to tour. The team contained mainly Argentinian players, whose national team had struggled to attract strong international opposition. Eight matches were played between the two teams in the early 1980s—all awarded Test status.
In 1985, a planned All Black tour of South Africa was stopped by the New Zealand High Court. A rebel tour took place the next year by a team known as the Cavaliers. The team was not sanctioned by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, yet consisted of all but two of the original squad that had been selected. For some of the tests, the team was advertised, inside South Africa as the All Blacks whilst at the others they were advertised as the New Zealand Cavaliers. The Springboks won the series 3–1.
In 1989, a World XV sanctioned by the International Rugby Board went on a mini-tour of South Africa. All traditional rugby nations bar New Zealand supplied players to the team with ten Welshmen, eight Frenchmen, six Australians, four Englishmen, one Scot and one Irishman.
From 1990 to 1991 the legal apparatus of apartheid was abolished, and the Springboks were readmitted to international rugby in 1992. They struggled to return to their pre-isolation standards in their first games after readmission. During the 1992 All Blacks tour, the first to South Africa since 1976, the Springboks were defeated 27–24 by New Zealand on 15 August 1992 and also suffered a 26–3 loss to Australia the following month. Ian McIntosh was sacked as national coach following a series defeat to the All Blacks in New Zealand in mid-1994. In October of that year, Kitch Christie accepted an offer to take over from McIntosh.
South Africa was selected to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and there was a remarkable surge of support for the Springboks among the white and black communities in the lead-up to the tournament. This was the first major event to be held in what Archbishop Desmond Tutu had dubbed "the Rainbow Nation." South Africans of all colours got behind the slogan coined by Edward Griffiths, then CEO of the rugby federation: "one team, one country".
Wearing a Springbok shirt, Nelson Mandela presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, a white Afrikaner. The gesture was widely seen as a major step towards the reconciliation of white and black South Africans. Mandela's enthusiasm and support for the Springboks is portrayed in the 2009 film Invictus. SARFU President Louis Luyt caused controversy at the post-match dinner by declaring that the Springboks would have won the previous two World Cups if they had been allowed to compete. The day after the World Cup victory, the Xhosa word for Springbok, Amabokoboko! appeared as the headline of The Sowetan's sports page.
A series of crises followed in 1995 through 1997 as it became clear that South African rugby was an unreformed element of the new Rainbow Nation. The team was also struck by tragedy, as Christie, who had led them to victory in all 14 Tests he coached, was forced to resign in 1996 after battling leukaemia for more than a decade. An on-field slump saw South African sides struggle in the new Super 12 and Tri-Nations competitions. Under new coach John Hart and the captaincy of Sean Fitzpatrick, the All Blacks won a Test series in South Africa for the first time in 1996. Fitzpatrick even rated the series win higher than the 1987 World Cup victory in which he had participated. The 1997 Lions completed their South African tour with only two losses in total, winning the Test series two games to one.
Coach Andre Markgraaff was fired in 1997 over a racial comment he made. Despite a successful career as a player, Markgraaff's replacement Carel du Plessis led the team to successive defeats in the British and Irish Lions 1997 tour and the 1997 Tri Nations Series. He was replaced later in 1997 by Nick Mallett, who went on to coach the unbeaten 1997 South Africa rugby union tour of Europe in late 1997. In 1998 Mallett and new captain Gary Teichmann tied the then-existing record of the 1965–69 All Blacks for longest Test winning streak, winning 17 consecutive Tests, including the 1998 Tri-Nations. In the same year, South Africa mourned as Christie's illness claimed his life. The Springboks entered the 1999 Rugby World Cup competition with little hope. Reverting to a kicking game and forward strength, they showed they were still a force to be reckoned with, losing to eventual champions Australia in a tense semi-final at Twickenham.
During the 2002 tour, at Twickenham in November 2002 England defeated South Africa 53–3, which was their worst ever loss, after Springbok Jannes Labuschagne was red-carded after 23 minutes and the Boks played three quarters of the match one man short. An increasingly frustrated South African side began physically targeting England players during the match, with footage showing captain Corné Krige as a leader. In the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the Springboks also lost by record margins to France, Scotland and New Zealand. They defeated Argentina by only one point, and were eliminated from the 2003 World Cup in the quarter final round – their worst ever showing in a World Cup record of two gold and one bronze from five appearances.
During a pre-World Cup training camp, there was a highly publicised dispute between Geo Cronjé (an Afrikaner) and Quinton Davids (a coloured). Both were dropped from the team, and Cronjé was called before a tribunal to answer charges that his actions in the dispute were racially motivated. Cronjé was eventually cleared. Later, the Boks were sent to a military-style boot camp in the South African bush called Kamp Staaldraad (literal English translation "Camp Steel-wire", idiomatically "Camp Barbed Wire"). After the World Cup, then- coach Rudolph Straeuli was under fire, not only because of the team's poor results, but because of his role in organising Kamp Staaldraad. He eventually resigned, and in February 2004 Jake White was named as new national coach.
The Springboks then swept Ireland in a two-Test series and defeated Wales during their opponents' June 2004 tours of the Southern Hemisphere. Next came a win in the most closely contested Tri Nations in history—their only Tri Nations trophy since 1998. In November 2004, the Springboks went on a Grand Slam tour of the Home Nations. They were decisively defeated by England, and lost controversially to Ireland. They then won a hard-fought match against Wales, and prevailed comfortably against Scotland. The Springbok resurgence was honoured with a sweep of the major International Rugby Board awards. The Boks were named Team of the Year, White Coach of the Year, and flanker Schalk Burger Player of the Year.
In 2005 the Springboks defeated an embarrassed Uruguay by a world record margin. Zimbabwean-born new cap, Tonderai Chavanga, scored a record six tries in the match, surpassing Stefan Terblanche's previous record of five. The side finished second in the Tri-Nations that year, losing their final match to New Zealand. The springboks thought they had the match before Keven Mealamu scored the match winning try for the All Blacks in the 27–31 loss. The year ended positively with close victories away from home against Argentina, among others.
With several new players aboard, the 2006 Springboks defeated Scotland twice in South Africa, before a loss in a closely contested match to France ended their long undefeated home record. A very bad start to the 2006 Tri Nations Series saw them lose 49–0 to the Wallabies. The Springboks put together better games in the following two matches, losing in the final minutes in the second test against Australia. Answering the call from many South African supporters to play a more expansive style of rugby, coach Jake White fielded a far more adventurous team. They broke South Africa's five-game losing streak by beating the All Blacks 21–20 at Royal Bafokeng Stadium—the first time a Test match had been played at this rural venue near Rustenburg. The All Blacks' defeat to the South Africans was their only loss of the year. The highlight of South Africa's tour to Europe was the 24–15 win over England at Twickenham, after a loss to Ireland and one to England the previous week. A South Africa XV also played a World XV on this tour at the Walkers Stadium in Leicester.
In July 2006, Springbok coach Jake White told the press he had been unable to pick some white players for his squad "because of transformation"—a reference to the ANC government’s policies attempting to redress the racial imbalances in national sport.
Rugby World Cup 2007
Grouped in Pool A at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, they opened their campaign in Paris with a 59–7 victory over Samoa. Next up was England at the Stade de France, where the Springboks triumphed 36–-0. The third pool game against Tonga in Lens was more competitive and they narrowly won 30–25. The final pool game against the USA in Montpellier produced a 64–15 win.
Having won all their pool games, they advanced to the quarter finals to defeat Fiji 37–20 before accounting for Argentina 37–13 in the semi-finals. They prevailed 15–6 over England to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time on 20 October 2007. Some members of the English media claimed that the match was controversial because they felt that an England try was disallowed by the Australian fourth official. The Springboks won the match joining Australia as the only other national team, at the time, to have won the trophy twice (New Zealand also won it for a second time in 2011).
After the World Cup
2008 was a mixed year for the Springboks. Going into the year as world champions, they were under pressure to perform. In January 2008, history was made when Peter de Villiers was appointed as the first non-white coach of the Springboks. De Villiers's first squad included ten of colour and managed two victories against Wales (43–17 and 37–21) and one against Italy (26–0) in Incoming Tours. They had an ultimately disappointing Tri Nations ending up last with only two wins. They did manage a historic triumph in Dunedin, a city in which they had never tasted victory in over 100 years. The Springboks did enough to beat Wales and Scotland before thrashing England on the end of year tour . This was good preparation for the upcoming British and Irish Lions Tour.
2009: A full trophy cabinet and a disappointing tour
The 2009 season began as one of the more successful in the post-apartheid history of South African rugby. The Boks' 2009 international campaign began with a closely fought 2–1 series win over the Lions. They followed it up with a convincing win in the Tri Nations, sweeping the All Blacks and losing only to the Wallabies in Brisbane. In the process, they added the Freedom Cup (against New Zealand) and the Mandela Challenge Plate (against Australia) to their trophy cabinet.
However, the Boks' busy year finally took its toll when they toured Europe in the November Test window. They lost their top spot in the IRB rankings with a loss to France, while a midweek side lost two non-Tests to Leicester Tigers and Saracens. The first-string Boks returned to defeat Italy, but were beaten by Ireland to close out the year.
On 6 November 2010, the Springboks had the honour of being the first Test team to play Ireland at their new home of Aviva Stadium. Because of the historic significance of this match, the Boks had agreed to wear their change strip to allow Ireland to wear their regular green. (Normally, the home team changes in case of a colour clash.) The match was the opener of their first attempted Grand Slam tour since 2004, with the Ireland match followed by encounters with Wales, Scotland and England. The Boks followed the tour up with a match against the Barbarians.
The Boks began their 2010 Test campaign on 5 June, defeating Wales 34–31 in Cardiff. Controversy arose prior to the game as Bath-based Butch James was withdrawn from the team at the last minute due to the refusal of Premier Rugby, which runs England's Premiership, to grant James permission on the grounds that the match fell outside the IRB-recognised June Test window. The victory over Wales was achieved without some of the regular Springbok stalwarts such as Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen.
Afer defeating Wales, the Springboks headed back to Cape Town to play against France on 12 June for their second international in 2010, which they won 42–17. The Springbok victory over the French was their first since 2005. Victor Matfield believes the victory will give the Springboks a psychological advantage over the French as they may meet in the knock out stages of the Rugby World Cup 2011. The crushing victory over the French was achieved through five tries with Pierre Spies, Guthro Steenkamp, and Francois Louw each scoring one try and Gio Aplon, the 75 kg wing, scoring two tries. Their final preparations for the 2010 Tri-Nations tournament includes two internationals against Italy. In the first test a lacklustre Springbok team beat Italy by 29–13. The Springboks acquitted themselves much better in the second test crushing the Azzuri 55–11.
The Boks were widely fancied to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park in Auckland in the first Tri-Nations test of 2010. The Boks had only previously won twice at Eden park, the last time being in 1937. However, the first test of the 2010 Tri Nations campaign turned out to be a nightmare for the Boks. They went down 32–12 and in the process conceded four tries. Since then, the Boks lost consecutive tests to again succeed both the Tri-Nations trophy and Freedom Cup to the world number one ranked All Blacks, as well as lose the Mandela Plate and second place IRB World Ranking to Australia.
2011 and the Rugby World Cup
The Springboks kicked off their 2011 test season with controversy, with 21 high-profile players omitted from the away leg of the 2011 Tri Nations, leaving only captain John Smit and Morné Steyn as regular members of the starting XV amongst a largely second-string side. Media sources claimed that the Boks players were simply being rested in preparation for the upcoming World Cup, thus creating outcry that the 2011 Tri Nations was being turned into a farce by the Springboks. The Boks subsequently lost both of their away games. The home leg saw the return of the first-choice players, and the Boks went on to lose to Australia in Durban, but win the following week 18–5 against a rugged second string New Zealand outfit in Port Elizabeth. The Springboks finished the 2011 Tri Nations with just the one win.
The South Africans entered the 2011 Rugby World Cup with a quiet confidence, even though they were drawn in the "Pool of Death" against Wales, Samoa, Fiji and Namibia. Despite a very close opening encounter against Wales, which was won by the narrowest of margins, 17–16, the Springboks went on to top their group, registering convincing wins against Fiji and Namibia before winning another close match against Samoa 13–5.
The Springboks then went on to face Australia in a highly controversial quarter-final match, ultimately losing 11–9 and falling out of the tournament. The South African fans and pundits went on to criticise New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence for "one-sided" refereeing, claiming that Australian openside David Pocock was allowed to "reduce the breakdown to a farce". Lawrence was dropped from the nine-man elite panel in 2012.
Following the World Cup exit, several stalwarts of the 2007 World Cup-winning side and the 2011 squad went on to announce retirements or moves abroad. This included captain John Smit, influential lock pairing Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, and scrum-half Fourie du Preez.
Apartheid and transformation
Even before the apartheid laws were introduced to South Africa in 1948 the Springboks had been an all-white team. The team became a symbol of racial division within South Africa, and following the first open elections in 1994, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) instituted a policy of transformation in South African sport. In this context transformation can be defined as "a complete alternation of the appearance or character of South African rugby", and one aim is to transform the Springboks into a team more representative of South Africa's race and class.
South Africa's World Cup winning side of 1995 fielded only one non-white player (Chester Williams). This continued in the team's biggest matches of the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, and in the 2007 World Cup final the team fielded two non-white players (Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen). South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins considered the number of non-white players in the 2007 World Cup squad too low, and in 2008 the first non-white coach of the side was appointed. The political pressure on rugby coaches and administrators to select non-white players is strong; 16 of the 35 new Springboks appointed by former coach Jake White were non-white. ANC Minister of Parliament Butana Komphela expressed a view held by many politicians in the country when he said "Sport cannot be excluded from imperatives of empowerment and transformation." Currently, 15 of the 49 players in training for the World Cup are non-white.
Controversy over the emblem
Since the demise of apartheid the ruling African National Congress has wanted to replace the Springbok across all national teams, as emblem of the racially segregated sporting codes, with a neutral symbol that would represent a decisive break with a repressive past. The king protea as South Africa's national flower was chosen for this purpose, so that the national cricket team became known as the Proteas, for example. A similar change was envisioned for the national rugby squad's springbok emblem. Paul Roos's team had first introduced the Springbok in 1906, and it had promoted a measure of unity among white English and Afrikaans-speaking players after the two Anglo-Boer Wars of the late 19th century.
The Springbok was regarded as representing both the exclusion of players who were not designated white under apartheid legislation and, by extension, of apartheid itself. Although the Springbok was adopted briefly by the first coloured national rugby team in 1939 and by their first black counterparts in 1950, it became exclusively associated with segregated sporting codes afterwards. South African rugby officials in particular, and the national rugby team itself, have an historical association with racism from 1906 on. The first rugby Springboks initially refused to play against a Devon side that included Jimmy Peters, the first black player to represent England. Legendary official, national coach, and Springbok scrumhalf Danie Craven had acquiesced with government officials who had demanded that Māori players be excluded from visiting All Black teams. Craven had also indicated that the Springbok was exclusively tied to the white identity of the national rugby team.
As a result of political pressure the national rugby team jersey from 1992 on featured a king protea alongside the springbok. As portrayed in the film Invictus, pressure to replace the Springbok as emblem for the rugby team came to a head in 1994, just before the Rugby World Cup that would take place in South Africa. As a result of Nelson Mandela's direct interference, the ANC's executive decided not to do away with the emblem at the time, but to reappropriate it. After the national team won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, black rugby pioneer Dan Qeqe said that "The Springboks play for all of us".
In March 2004 the South African Sports Commission ratified a decision that the protea be the official rugby emblem on blazers and caps, with the concession that the springbok could remain on the team jersey. And in November 2007 the ANC's special conference at Polokwane again endorsed the need for a single symbol for all sporting codes. While detractors like Qondisa Ngwenya foresaw a loss of revenue from dumping the springbok emblem, others like Cheeky Watson urged the need for an alternative, unifying symbol.
South Africa play in green jerseys, white shorts and green socks. Their jersey is embroidered with the SA Rugby logo on the upper left corner and the flag of South Africa on the sleeve and traditionally has a gold collar. The strip is made by Canterbury of New Zealand and their current shirt sponsor is South African banking giant ABSA. The green jersey was first adopted when the British Isles toured South Africa in 1896. On their first tour to Great Britain and Ireland in 1906–07 the South Africa wore a green jersey with white collar, blue shorts, and blue socks. A replica shirt was worn in 2006 against Ireland in Dublin to mark the centenary of the tour. When Australia first toured South Africa in 1933, the visitors wore sky blue jerseys to avoid confusion, as at the time, both wore dark green strips. In 1953, when Australia toured again, the Springboks wore white jerseys for the test matches. In 1961 Australia changed their jersey to gold to avoid further colour clashes.
The Springbok nickname and logo also dates from the 1906–7 tour of Britain. The springbok was chosen to represent the team by tour captain Paul Roos in an attempt to prevent the British press from inventing their own name. The logo was not restricted to the white team alone, the first coloured national team used the springbok in 1939 and the first black team in 1950. After the fall of apartheid in 1992 a wreath of proteas was added to the logo. When the ANC was elected in 1994 the team's name was not changed to the Proteas like that of other South African sporting teams only because of the intervention of President Nelson Mandela. The movie Invictus starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon depicts this story.
In December 2008, the SARU decided to place the protea on the left side of the Boks' jersey, in line with other South African national teams, and move the springbok to the right of the jersey. The new jersey was worn for the first time during the British and Irish Lions' 2009 tour of South Africa.
The Springboks do not use a national stadium as their home, but play out of a number of venues throughout South Africa. The 60,000 seat Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg was the main venue for the 1995 World Cup, where the Springboks defeated the All Blacks in the final. Other regular venues for tests include Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, Kings Park Stadium in Durban, Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. The Springboks played their first test match at Soccer City on 21 August 2010, a Tri Nations match against New Zealand.
Other stadiums which have been used for test matches include Buffalo City Stadium in East London, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace outside of Rustenburg, Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit and Puma Stadium in Witbank.
The first South African international took place at Port Elizabeth's St George’s Park Cricket Ground in 1891. Ellis Park was built in 1928, and in 1955 hosted a record 100,000 people in a Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions.
The Springboks are said to have a notable advantage over touring sides when playing at high altitude on the Highveld. Games at Ellis Park, Loftus Versfeld, or Vodacom Park are said to present physical problems, and to influence a match in a number of other ways, such as the ball travelling further when kicked. Experts disagree on whether touring team's traditionally poor performances at altitude are more due to a state of mind rather than an actual physical challenge.
|Top 25 Rankings as of 2 December 2013|
|*Change from the previous week|
|South Africa's Historical Rankings|
|Source: IRB - Graph updated to 20 May 2013|
South Africa's only annual tournament is The Rugby Championship (formerly Tri-Nations), involving Australia and New Zealand since 1996, with Argentina joining the competition in 2012. South Africa has won the tournament three times; in 1998 and 2004 and 2009. South Africa also participates in the Mandela Challenge Plate with Australia, and the Freedom Cup with New Zealand as part of the Rugby Championship.
|Tri Nations (1996 – 2011)|
|Rugby Championship (2012 – )|
Updated: 6 Oct 2013
South Africa did not participate in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups because of the sporting boycott that apartheid brought against them. South Africa's introduction to the event was as hosts. They defeated defending champions Australia 27–18 in the opening match, and went on to defeat the All Blacks 15–12 after extra time in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final, with a drop goal from 40 metres by Joel Stransky.
In 1999 South Africa suffered their first World Cup loss when they were defeated 21–27 by Australia in their semi-final; they went on to defeat the All Blacks 22–18 in the third-fourth play-off match. The worst ever South African performance at a World Cup was in 2003 when they lost a pool game to England, and then were knocked out of the tournament by the All Blacks in their quarter-final. In 2007 the Springboks defeated Fiji in the quarter-finals and Argentina in the semi-finals. They then defeated England in the final 15–6 to win the tournament for a second time. In 2011 the Springboks were defeated by Australia 9–11 in the quarter-finals after winning all four their pool games.
Until the 1990s South Africa were considered one of the most successful rugby nations in Test match history, with a positive win-loss ratio against every Test playing nation including their traditional rivals, New Zealand. However, for the last twenty years whilst the Springboks have managed to maintain their positive win-loss ratio, they have failed to do so against New Zealand. South Africa are currently ranked number two in the world rankings. When the ranking system was introduced in October 2003 South Africa were ranked sixth. Their ranking fluctuated until victory in the 2007 Rugby World Cup briefly sent them to the top of the rankings. Since then, the top two rankings changed ultimately remaining with the All Blacks since November 2009 when the Boks lost to France on their end-of-year tour and most recently regained second position after defeating Australia in Pretoria.
|British and Irish Lions||46||23||17||6||50.00%|
|South American Jaguars||8||7||1||0||87.50%|
Traditionally, much of the test match (and all until 1987) with other country happen during "tour". The first team to visit South Africa, were the British Lions in 1891. The first overseas tour was arranged in 1906-07 in Europe.
See List of South Africa national rugby union players for a complete list of every player to have represented the Springboks.
Head Coach: Heyneke Meyer
- Caps updated 24 November 2013
Note: Flags indicate national union for the club/province as defined by the International Rugby Board.
The following players also received core contracts from SARU until the 2015 Rugby World Cup, although they were not included in the Springboks' 2013 outgoing tours squad:
Note: Flags indicate national union for the club/province as defined by the International Rugby Board.
South Africa's most capped player is John Smit with 111 caps, placing him joint-sixth with Philippe Sella of France on the all-time list in international rugby. Victor Matfield is the most-capped lock for any nation in rugby history, with all of his 110 appearances at that position; although Fabien Pelous of France retired with 118 caps, only 100 were as a lock. The most-capped back is Percy Montgomery, whose 102 caps made him the country's leader until first being equalled by John Smit and later surpassed by Matfield, but was regained by Smit. Montgomery also holds the South African record for Test points with 893, which at the time of his international retirement placed him sixth on the all-time list of Test point scorers (he now stands ninth). The most points Montgomery ever scored in a single international was 35 against Namibia in 2007—this is also a South African record.
Fly-half Jannie de Beer holds the world record for dropped goals in a Test match (5, during the 44–21 quarter-final win over England in the 1999 Rugby World Cup)
On 1 August during the 2009 Tri Nations tournament, Morné Steyn set a number of records during the second Test between the Springboks and the All Blacks. The Springboks won 31–19, with Steyn scoring all South Africa's points – 1 try, 1 conversion, 8 penalties. This gave him records for:
- Most points scored by any player in a Tri Nations match, surpassing Andrew Mehrtens (All Blacks vs. Australia, 1999).
- Most points ever scored by an individual in a Test against the All Blacks, passing Christophe Lamaison's 29 (France, 1999).
- World record for most points scored by a player who has scored all their team's points.
- South African record for penalties in a test (8) – beating the seven achieved twice by Montgomery.
- Steyn also holds the Springbok record for the fastest 100 points (8 Test matches)
Although statistics on the success rate of kicks at goal were not kept until the late 1980s, it is believed that Steyn also holds the record for most consecutive successful kicks at goal in Tests. He had a streak of 41 successful kicks at goal, which started during the Boks' Test against Italy on 19 June 2010 and ended on 6 November 2010 against Ireland.
The world's most-capped captain is John Smit, who has captained South Africa in 82 of his 110 Tests. The world's most-capped lock pairing is that of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, who have started together in 62 Tests. Smit also played 46 consecutive matches for South Africa, which is a record.
Eleven former South African international players have been inducted into either the International Rugby Hall of Fame or the IRB Hall of Fame. Six are members of the International Rugby Hall of Fame only; two are members of the IRB Hall of Fame only, and four are members of both Halls of Fame.
Barry "Fairy" Heatlie, who played in the late 19th century and into the early 20th, was one of the early greats of South African rugby. He appeared for Western Province 34 times between 1890 and 1904, with 28 of them being Currie Cup wins. He also played six Tests for South Africa against the Lions in 1891, 1896, and 1903, and also captained the side to their only two Test wins of the 1890s. Arguably his greatest legacy to South African rugby is the green jersey; he is credited with introducing the colour for South Africa's 1903 Test against the Lions at Newlands. He was inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2009.
Bennie Osler played 17 consecutive Tests between 1924 and 1933. Playing at fly-half, his first Test was against the touring British team in 1924. He also played in the series against the All Blacks in 1928, but most notably captained the Springboks on their Grand Slam tour of 1931–32 when they defeated all four Home Nations. His last Tests were the five played against Australia when they toured to South Africa in 1933. Osler was inducted to the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and the IRB Hall of Fame in 2009.
Making his Test debut in Olser's Grand Slam winning team in 1931 was scrum-half Danie Craven. Craven played several positions including fly-half, scrum-half, centre and even number eight. However Craven was most famous for popularising the dive pass. As well as winning a Grand Slam with Osler's team, Craven toured with 1937 Springboks to New Zealand where they achieved their first series victory over New Zealand. His last act as player was captaining South Africa in a Test series against the Lions. Craven's involvement with the Springboks continued after his playing retirement, and he coached them to a 4–0 series win over the touring All Blacks in 1949. He was elected President of the South African Rugby Board in 1956, a position he held until the post-apartheid South African Rugby Union was formed in 1991. Craven was instrumental in the formation of the South African Rugby Union and became its first Executive President. Such was Craven's influence in South African rugby he became known as "Mr Rugby", was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1997, and was in the second class of inductees into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2007; behind Rugby School and William Webb Ellis.
The man most credited with inventing modern number 8 play was Hennie Muller, inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 2001. He played 13 Tests between 1949 and 1953, and in the process won a 4–0 series victory over the All Blacks and a Grand Slam tour of Britain and Ireland. He was nicknamed Windhond (greyhound) for his speed around the field. When writing about the 1949 series against the All Blacks, Harding and Williams wrote: "(Okey) Geffin won the series, perhaps, but Muller made it possible." Of Muller's 13 Tests, he only lost one—against Australia in 1953.
Named South Africa's player of the 20th Century in 2000, Frik du Preez played 38 Tests between 1961 and 1971. Du Preez could play both flanker or lock and was one of the most dominant forwards of the 1960s, but was especially well known for his all round skills. Danie Craven said of du Preez, "To my mind he could have played any position on a rugby field with equal brilliance." He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 1997 and the IRB Hall of Fame in 2009.
Morne du Plessis played 22 Tests for South Africa between 1971 and 1980. His debut was at Number 8 in South Africa's series win over Australia in 1971. He went on to captain South Africa and became part of the only father-son pair to captain South Africa—his father had captained South Africa in 1949. He led South Africa to a 3–1 series win over the All Blacks in 1976 and a series win over the British and Irish Lions in 1980 by the same margin. Du Plessis would be inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1999.
International Hall of Fame inductees Naas Botha, inducted in 2005, and Danie Gerber, inducted in 2007, both had careers interrupted by South Africa's sporting isolation in the 1980s and early 1990s. Botha made his Test debut against the South American Jaguars in 1980. Playing at fly-half, Botha played 28 Tests and scored 312 Test points before his international retirement in 1992. Botha contributed significantly to the Springboks 1980 series win over the Lions, and also played for the World XV in the IRB Centenary Match at Twickenham. Gerber also made his debut in 1980, and scored 19 tries in his 24 Tests before retiring in 1992. He scored a hat-trick against England in 1984, and played alongside Botha in the World XV team in 1986. In South Africa's first Test since the fall of apartheid, against the All Blacks in 1992, he scored twice.
Two players that straddled the amateur and professional eras were Francois Pienaar and Joost van der Westhuizen. Both first played for the Springboks in 1993. Pienaar was named captain in his first Test against France, and went on to captain the side to the 1995 World Cup. It was there he captained South Africa to the World Cup title, and received the trophy from Nelson Mandela who was wearing his number 6 jersey. Nelson Mandela later wrote "It was under Francois Pienaar's inspiring leadership that rugby became the pride of the entire country. Francois brought the nation together." Pienaar entered the International Hall of Fame in 2005, and was inducted into the IRB Hall in 2011 alongside all other World Cup-winning captains from the inaugural event in 1987 through 2007 (minus the previously inducted Australian John Eales). Joost van der Westhuizen also participated in the 1995 World cup victory, but went on to play in two more World Cups. Playing at scrum-half, van der Westhuizen played 89 Tests for South Africa and scored 38 tries. At the time of his retirement following the 2003 World Cup he was South Africa's leading try scorer and most capped player. He entered the International Hall of Fame two years after Pienaar, in 2007.
The newest Springbok player to enter the IRB Hall is John Smit, inducted in 2011 alongside Pienaar. The captain of the 2007 World Cup winners, Smit (as noted earlier) ended his international career as the most-capped Springbok in history.
The role and definition of the South Africa coach has varied significantly over the team's history. Hence a comprehensive list of coaches, or head selectors, is impossible. The following table is a list of coaches since the 1949 All Blacks tour to South Africa:
|Hennie Muller||1960–1961, 1963, 1965||44%|
|Boy Louw||1960–1961, 1965||67%|
|Izak van Heerden||1962||75%|
|Felix du Plessis||1964||100%|
|Ian Kirkpatrick||1967, 1974||60%|
|Johan Claassen||1964, 1970–1974||50%|
|Carel du Plessis||1997||37%|
|Peter de Villiers||2008–2011||62%|
|Heyneke Meyer||2012–||71% (as of 24 November 2013)|
Both World Cup-winning coaches, Christie and White, were inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2011 alongside all other World Cup-winning head coaches through the 2007 edition.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to South Africa national rugby union team.|
- List of Springboks
- Rugby union in South Africa
- South Africa national sevens team
- South African rugby union captains
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