Errol Tobias

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Errol Tobias
Birth name Errol Tobias
Date of birth (1950-03-18) 18 March 1950 (age 68)
Place of birth Caledon, South Africa
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight 76.66 kg (12 st 1 lb)
Spouse Sandra
Children Errol, Sidney
Rugby union career
Position(s) Fly-half, Centre
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1981–84 South Africa 6 22

Errol George Tobias (born 18 March 1950) is a former South African rugby union footballer, and the first black man to play in a test match for the South African national side. He gained six caps between 1981 and 1984 when the country was still following the policy of apartheid. Tobias's selection paved the way for other black players to be added to the national team: first Avril Williams, and later, Avril's nephew, Chester Williams. Of his 21 games for the Springboks, six were tests.[1]

Early life and rugby career[edit]

Errol Tobias was born on the farm Klipdrift, located outside Caledon in the Overberg district of the Western Cape.

In August 1978, Tobias turned out at fly-half for a multi-racial South African Country Districts XV against the American Cougars. Tobias scored two tries at the Border Rugby Union Grounds, and helped in the scoring of two more. About 5,500 spectators witnessed the 44-12 victory over the American team.[2][3][4] The Associated Press erroneously reported this match as being the first in which a multi-racial team played against an international touring side in South Africa.[3] In fact, the first official multi-racial team to play a foreign national side was the South African Invitation XV which included four players of colour: John Noble, Turkey Shields, Toto Tsotsobe and Morgan Cushe. Selected by Danie Craven, the team beat the French on 7 June 1975 at Newlands in Cape Town by 18 points to 3.[5]

International career[edit]

Tobias' international career began when he was selected for the Proteas' 1971 tour of Britain. The Proteas were affiliated with the Coloured South African Rugby Football Federation, one of four racially segregated rugby union associations in South Africa at the time.[6]

On 4 June 1974 Tobias scored the only points (a penalty and a drop-kick) at fly-half as the Proteas were beaten 6-37 by the touring Lions side at Goodwood Showground in Cape Town.[7]

In 1979 Tobias was part of the first multi-racial South African Barbarians side to tour the United Kingdom under manager Chick Henderson.[8] Tobias was again included at centre in the South African Barbarians team that lost 14-25 to the British Lions at Kings Park on 2 July 1980.[9] His teammates included Hugo Porta and three players of colour, Francois Davids, Charles Williams and Solomon Mhlaba.[10]

Tobias was a member of the Springbok touring party to South America in October 1980 which was denied visas to enter Argentina. Due to international political pressure to sever cultural and sporting ties with South Africa because of apartheid, the tour was wrapped in secrecy, and matches played against Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile drew crowds as small as one hundred.[11][12]

In 1981 Tobias was selected at centre for the Springboks to play against the touring Irish team. In the first test at Newlands on 30 May, a crowd of 37,000 watched as Tobias broke, then gave an inside pass to Rob Louw, who scored. Prior to the test Danie Craven warned Tobias that the game would be over before he would even realize that he was representing his country. The Springboks defeated the Irish 23-15, with Danie Gerber scoring one of the best tries ever seen at Newlands, Tobias recalled.[1][13]

Tobias received his call-up to the national team's tour to New Zealand in 1981 from Dr Danie Craven via telephone.[14] Before the ill-fated Springbok tour, managed by Johan Claassen and coached by Nelie Smith, Tobias prepared to play on the rain-soaked rugby fields that he expected to encounter by turning his back yard into a mud-bath.[15]

His selection was controversial at home and abroad, with some critics suggesting that he was included as a token Black player.[15] He was the target of placards and verbal abuse from the New Zealand anti-apartheid organisation Halt All Racist Tours, whose Dick Cuthbert called Tobias "an Uncle Tom".[16] Within the touring squad attitudes towards Tobias also differed. Naas Botha implied in 2006 that players were more accepting, while Johan Claassen admitted that team management possibly had an "anti-Errol" bias.[17]

International caps[edit]

Opposition Result Position Points Date Ground
Ireland 23 - 15 Outside Centre 30 May 1981 Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Ireland 12 - 10 Outside Center Kings Park Stadium, Durban
England 33 - 15 Fly-half 2 June 1984 Boet Erasmus Stadium, Port Elizabeth
England 35 - 9 Fly-half 1 try, 1 conv. 9 June 1984 Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
South America 32 - 15 Fly-half 2 conv., 2 pen. 20 October 1984 Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
South America 22 - 13 Fly-half 2 pen. 27 October 1984 Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

Later life[edit]

Tobias worked as a brick-layer and later owned his own construction company. He is married and has a son, Sidney (Sid), who was selected for the Western Province Under-21 side in October 2010, while another, also called Errol, played for the Bloemfontein club Old Greys in 2004.[18][19] Errol Junior was included at fly-half in the 2004 tryouts for the Cats Super 12 team, and was a replacement for the Leopards' during the 2007 Currie Cup season.[20][21] In 2011 Sid Tobias played for the Sale Jets[1], for whom he scored a hat-trick in a game against Northampton Wanderers[2].[22]

As co-commentator for provincial, Super Rugby, and test matches, Tobias drew positive comments from the public for his elegant use of Afrikaans, although others opined that he was not good at summarising.[1][23]

On 8 November 1995 he became the first black mayor of his home town, Caledon.[24][25] He had stood for election as part of the Caledon Community Association, formed in 1993, and which aimed to improve the welfare of local residents. Tobias' association won 5 of 13 available seats, and formed a coalition with the African National Congress. He committed himself to promoting racial reconciliation by running rugby training camps.[26] During 1996 he lost his position when the local ANC elected Abe Botha as new mayor. Tobias, who continued as a councillor, initially criticized the new mayor for being part of the repression of Coloured residents during Botha's earlier terms as mayor from 1974 to 1981. Tobias later committed to co-operate with Botha for the welfare of the town.[27]


  1. ^ a b c "Tobias Nou Uitsaaier [Tobias Now a Broadcaster]". Beeld. 2004-06-17. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  2. ^ "South Africans Down Americans". The News and Courier. Associated Press. 1978-08-12. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  3. ^ a b "Sports Shorts". The Robesonian. Associated Press. 1978-08-11. Retrieved 2011-12-19. 
  4. ^ Select Books (2010). "Sports Catalogue May 2010. [Opens .doc file directly.]". Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  5. ^ Griffiths, John. "The first official multi-race team in SA, MPs with international honours and Varsity Blues". Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  6. ^ Morgan, Brad (3 July 2003). "Errol Tobias: a Black Bok in a White Team". SA Info. Archived from the original on 18 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  7. ^ "SAR Federation XV 6 v 37 British & Irish Lions". Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  8. ^ South African Barbarians
  9. ^ "Springbok trailblazer: Errol Tobias". 2008-03-12. Archived from the original on 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  10. ^ "SA Barbarians 14 v 25 British & Irish Lions, 2nd July 1980, Kings Park". Archived from the original on 18 December 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  11. ^ "Ons en die Poemas [Us and the Pumas]". Beeld. 2000-11-07. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  12. ^ "Breyton Paulse Makes History by Playing in His Fiftieth Test for the Boks". SA History Online. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  13. ^ "Ireland tour - Cape Town, 30 May 1981 South Africa (15) 23 - 15 (15) Ireland (FT)". ESPN Scrum. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  14. ^ "Black Pearl of the High Veldt". The Scotsman. 2006-06-11. Archived from the original on 2011-12-18. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  15. ^ a b "The Tale of Two Black Men". Sydney Morning Herald. 1978-07-19. Retrieved 2011-12-19. 
  16. ^ Brown, Malcolm (1981-07-21). "Big Pressure on 'Token' Black". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  17. ^ Geenty, Mark (2006-08-31). "1981 Springbok Tour Horrors Recalled". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  18. ^ Botha, Marco (2010-10-27). "WP-rugby Blom Oral [WP Rugby Flowers Everywhere]". Die Burger. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  19. ^ Cronjé, Hendrik (2003-11-26). "Nelie Smith Brei Oud-Greysspan [Nelie Smith Coaches Old Greys' Team]". Beeld. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  20. ^ Cronjé, Hendrik (2004-01-16). "Lombard Tog by Cats [Lombard Yet with the Cats]". Beeld. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  21. ^ Gilbert, Morris (2007-07-10). "Bands lei Jong Turke in Potch [Bands Leads Young Turks in Potch]". Beeld. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  22. ^ "Jets Run in Nine Tries to Win 57-29". 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  23. ^ Bekker, George (2003-09-07). "Skeidsregters Klop Kommentators [Referees Beat Commentators]". Beeld. pp. Opinion. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  24. ^ "South African Athlete Becomes Mayor of Caledon" (PDF). Olympic Review, Vol. 26 No.6. December 1995. p. 10. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  25. ^ Gilhooly, Daniel (2003-08-08). "Rugby saved Willemse from mean streets". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  26. ^ "ANC Moves into Municipal Power". ANC Daily News Briefing. 8 November 1995. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2011. 
  27. ^ Roux, Erieka (12 September 1996). "Tobias Steun Caledon se Nuwe Eerste Burger [Tobias supports Caledon's New First Citizen]". Die Burger. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2011. 

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