South Africa national rugby union team

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South Africa
Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s)
  • Springboks
  • Bokke
  • Amabokoboko
  • World Champs
EmblemSpringbok
UnionSA Rugby
CaptainSiyamthanda Kolisi
Most capsVictor Matfield (127)
Top scorerPercy Montgomery (893)
Top try scorerBryan Habana (67)
First colours
Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current3 (as of 8 August 2022)
Highest1 (2007, 2008, 2009, 2019–2021, 2022)
Lowest7 (2017, 2018)
First international
South Africa 0–4 British Isles
(Cape Town, South Africa; 30 July 1891)
Biggest win
South Africa 134–3 Uruguay 
(East London, South Africa; 11 June 2005)
Biggest defeat
 New Zealand 57–0 South Africa
(Auckland, New Zealand; 16 September 2017)
World Cup
Appearances7 (First in 1995)
Best resultChampions (1995, 2007, 2019)
Websitespringboks.rugby

The South Africa National Rugby Union Team, commonly known as the Springboks (colloquially the Boks, Bokke or Amabokoboko),[1] is the country's national team governed by the South African Rugby Union. The Springboks play in green and gold jerseys, with white shorts and their emblem is a native antelope, the Springbok, which is the national animal of South Africa. The team has been representing South Africa in international Rugby Union since 30 July 1891, when they played their first Test Match against a British Isles touring team. They are currently the reigning World Champions and have won the World Cup on 3 occasions, (1995, 2007, and 2019). The Springboks are equaled with the All Blacks with 3 World Cup wins.

The team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the tournament. 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 international anti-apartheid sporting boycotts. The Springboks defeated the All Blacks 15–12 in the 1995 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.

South Africa regained the title as champions 12 years later, when they defeated England 15–6 in the 2007 final. 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.[2] South Africa then won a third World Cup title, defeating England 32–12 in the 2019 final. As a result of this, the South African National Rugby Union Team were named 2020 World Team of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards for a second time.

The Springboks also compete in the annual Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations), along with their Southern Hemisphere counterparts Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. They have won the Championship on four occasions in Twenty-Four competitions and are the only team to have won a version of the competition and the Rugby World Cup in the same year.

Many teams have had their biggest defeats to the Springboks: Australia, Italy, Scotland, Uruguay and Wales.

History[edit]

First internationals: 1891–1913[edit]

The South Africa team that played the second test against the British Isles in 1891

The first British Isles tour took place in 1891, at Diocesan College.[3] These were the first representative games played by South African sides. The tourists won all twenty matches they played, conceding only one point.[4][5] The British Isles' success continued on their tour of 1896, winning three out of four tests against South Africa. South Africa's play greatly improved from 1891, and their first test win in the final game was a pointer to the future.[6][7] 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.[8][9] Rugby was given a huge boost by the early Lions tours, which created great interest in the South African press.[10] South Africa would not lose another series—home or away—until 1956.[11]

The 1906 Springboks team

The first South African team to tour the British Isles and France occurred during 1906–07. The team played tests against all four Home Nations. England managed a draw, but Scotland was the only one of the Home unions to gain a victory.[12] The trip instilled a sense of national pride among South Africans.[11][13] The South Africans played an unofficial match against a 'France' team while the official French team were in England; the Springboks won 55–6.[14][15] It was during this tour that the nickname Springboks was first used.[16][17][18]

The 1910 British Isles tour of South Africa was the first to include representatives from all four Home unions. The tourists won just one of their three tests.[19] The Boks' second European tour took place in 1912–13. They beat the four Home nations to earn their first Grand Slam, and also defeated France.[11][20]

Inter war[edit]

The Springboks team that faced New Zealand in 1921

By the first World War, New Zealand and South Africa had established themselves as rugby's two greatest powers.[21][22] A Springbok tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1921 was billed as "The World Championship of Rugby".[23] The All Blacks won the first Test 13–5,[24] The Springboks recovered to win the second Test 9–5,[24] and the final Test was drawn 0–0, resulting in a series draw.[25]

The 1924 British Lions team lost three of the four Tests to the Springboks, drawing the other.[26][27] This was the first side to pick up the name Lions, apparently picked up from the Lions embroidered on their ties.[28][29] The All Blacks first toured South Africa in 1928, and again the Test series finished level. The Springboks won the first Test 17–0 to inflict the All Blacks' heaviest defeat since 1893.[30][31] The All Blacks rebounded to win the second Test 7–6. After a Springbok win in the third Test, the All Blacks won 13–5 to draw the series.[32]

Despite winning South Africa's second Grand Slam, the Springbok tourists of 1931–32 were an unloved team, due to their tactics of kicking for territory.[33][34] It was successful however, winning against England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as defeating all their Welsh opponents for the first time.[35]

The complete squad that toured New Zealand and Australia in 1937

In 1933, Australia toured South Africa, with the Springboks winning the series 3–2.

In 1937 South Africa toured New Zealand and Australia and their 2–1 series win prompted them to be called "the best team to ever leave New Zealand".[36][37]

The British Isles toured South Africa again in 1938, winning the majority of their tour matches. The Springboks secured easy victories in the first two tests. However, the Lions bounced back to record a win in the third test, for the first Lions win on South Africa soil since 1910.[38]

Post-war era[edit]

Danie Craven was appointed coach in 1949, and started his coaching career winning ten matches in a row, including a 4–0 whitewash of New Zealand on their 1949 tour to South Africa.[39]

The 1951–52 team that toured Europe was considered amongst the finest Springbok sides to tour.[20] The team won the Grand Slam as well as defeating France. Hennie Muller captained the side. The South African highlight of the tour was a 44–0 defeat of Scotland.[33][40] The team finished with only one loss, to London Counties, from 31 matches.[41]

In 1953, Australia toured South Africa for the second time and although they lost the series they defeated South Africa 18–14 in the second test. This was the first Springbok defeat for 15 years.[citation needed] The 1955 British Lions tour to South Africa four-test series ended in a draw.

In 1956, Springboks toured Australasia the All Blacks won its first series over the Springboks, in "the most bitterly fought series in history."[42][43]

When France toured South Africa in 1958 they were not expected to compete.[44] France exceeded expectations and drew 3–3.[45] The French then secured a Test series victory with a 9–5 victory.[46]

Anti-apartheid protests: 1960s–1970s[edit]

In 1960, international criticism of apartheid grew in the wake of The Wind of Change speech and the Sharpeville massacre.[47] The Springboks increasingly became the target of international protest. The All Blacks toured South Africa in 1960, despite a 150,000 signature petition opposing it.[48] The Springboks avenged their 1956 series defeat by winning the four-match test series 2–1 with one draw.[43][49] that same year the Springboks toured Europe, and they defeated all four Home unions for their fourth Grand Slam.

The 1962 British Lions tour to South Africa lost three of the four tests, drawing the other. In 1963 the touring Wallabies beat the Springboks in consecutive tests, the first team to do so since the 1896 British team.[citation needed] In 1964, in Wales' first overseas tour they played one test match against South Africa, losing 3–24, their biggest defeat in 40 years.[50][51][52]

South Africa had a poor year in 1965, losing matches in a tour of Ireland and Scotland, and in a tour of Australia and 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.[53] In 1968 the Lions toured and lost three Tests and drew one.

Next year in the 1969–70 Springbok tour to the UK and Ireland the Springboks lost test matches against England and Scotland, and drew against Ireland and Wales. Throughout the tour however, large anti-apartheid demonstrations meant that several matches had to be played behind barbed wire fences.

In 1970 the All Blacks toured South Africa once again—after the South African government agreed to treat Maoris in the team and Maori spectators as 'honorary whites'.[54][55] The Springboks won the test series 3–1.

In the Springbok tour of Australia in 1971, the Springboks won all three tests. 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. A planned tour of New Zealand for 1973 was blocked by New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk on the grounds of public safety.[56]

The Lions team that toured South Africa in 1974 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 "battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium" was one of the most violent matches in rugby history.[57]

Sporting isolation: 1970s–1980s[edit]

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. Twenty-eight countries boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics in protest, and in 1977 the Gleneagles Agreement discouraged any Commonwealth sporting contact with South Africa. In response to the growing pressure, the segregated South African rugby unions merged in 1977. A planned 1979 Springbok tour of France was blocked by the French government.

The Lions toured South Africa in 1980, losing the first three tests before winning the last one.

The 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand went ahead in defiance of the Gleneagles Agreement. South Africa lost the series 1–2. The tour and the massive civil disruption in New Zealand had ramifications far beyond rugby. In 1981, Errol Tobias became the first non-white South African to represent his country when he took the field against Ireland.[citation needed] South Africa sought to counteract its sporting isolation by inviting the South American Jaguars to tour. The team contained mainly Argentinian players. Eight matches were played between the two teams in the early 1980s—all awarded Test status. In 1984, England toured losing both test matches; of the players selected, only Ralph Knibbs of Bristol refused to tour for political reasons.

Due to the isolation from apartheid, from 1985 to 1991, South Africa did not play a single test match against an established country, although South Africa did play some matches against makeshift teams.[58] 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, which consisted of all but two of the original squad.[59] 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. South Africa was not permitted by the International Rugby Board to compete in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, nor in the following 1991 Rugby World Cup.

Rainbow nation and 1995 World Cup[edit]

Apartheid was abolished during 1990–91, 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 24–27 by New Zealand, and suffered a 3–26 loss to Australia the following month.

South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, with a surge of support for the Springboks among the white and black communities behind the slogan "one team, one country."[60] This was the first major international sports event to be held in the Rainbow Nation. By the time they hosted the 1995 World Cup, the Springboks, coached by Kitch Christie, were seeded ninth. They won their pool by defeating Australia, Romania, and Canada. Wins in the quarter-final against Western Samoa (42–14) and in the semi-final against France (19–15) sent the Springboks to the final. South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final against the All Blacks 15–12 in extra-time.[61][62][63][64][65] President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok shirt, 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.[66]

A series of crises followed in 1995 through 1997. Christie resigned in 1996 due to leukaemia. South Africa struggled in the new Tri-Nations competition, the All Blacks won a test series in South Africa for the first time in 1996,[67] and the Lions won their 1997 South African tour test series two games to one. Coach Andre Markgraaff was fired in 1997 over a racist comment he made.[citation needed] The team suffered successive defeats in the Lions 1997 tour and the 1997 Tri Nations Series.

In 1997, coach Nick Mallett coached South Africa's unbeaten 1997 tour of Europe, and in 1998 the Boks tied the then-existing record for longest test winning streak, winning 17 consecutive tests, including the 1998 Tri-Nations.[68] At the 1999 Rugby World Cup the Springboks reached the semi-finals of the competition, where they lost to eventual champions Australia.[69]

Bobby Skinstad in June 2007

During the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the Springboks lost by record margins to England (3–53), France, Scotland and New Zealand.[70][71] At the 2003 Rugby World Cup, they were eliminated in the quarter-final round – their worst showing to date.

Following wins during the June 2004 tours, the Boks won the 2004 Tri Nations Series. The Springboks won the 2004 IRB International Team of the Year award. The Springboks finished second in the 2005 Tri-Nations.

Percy Montgomery running the ball for the Springboks against Samoa in 2007

The 2006 Springboks lost to France, ending their long undefeated home record. A poor 2006 Tri Nations Series included two losses to the Wallabies. Coach Jake White told the press in July 2006 that he had been unable to pick some white players for his squad "because of transformation"—a reference to the ANC government's policies to redress racial imbalances.[citation needed]

2007 Rugby World Cup victory[edit]

The Springboks before their 2007 World Cup match against Samoa

At the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, the Springboks won their pool. The Springboks then defeated Fiji 37–20 in the quarter-finals, and Argentina 37–13 in the semi-finals. In the final they prevailed 15–6 over England to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time.

In January 2008, Peter de Villiers was appointed as the first non-white coach of the Springboks. De Villiers's first squad included ten of colour. The team finishes last in the Tri Nations, but notched several wins during their 2008 end of year tour.

The 2009 season was more successful. The Boks earned a 2–1 series win over the Lions, and then won the 2009 Tri Nations Series. However, during the November tests they lost their top spot in the IRB rankings with losses to France and Ireland. Nonetheless, the Boks were named IRB International Team of the Year.

The Boks' June 2010 test campaign included a win over France (their first victory over the French since 2005).[72] However, the Boks performed poorly in the 2010 Tri Nations campaign, sliding to third in the world rankings.[73] In the 2011 Tri Nations the Boks rested a number of players in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. At the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the Springboks topped their group before falling to Australia 9–11 in the quarter-finals.

2018–present: The Erasmus/Kolisi era and 2019 Rugby World Cup victory[edit]

Following the sacking of Allister Coetzee in February 2018, Rassie Erasmus was named head coach of the national team, alongside his duties as Director of Rugby at SA Rugby, on 1 March 2018 and immediately decided to appoint Siya Kolisi as the new Springbok captain, a landmark decision.[74]

In his first match in charge, Erasmus awarded thirteen new players their first test cap, in a one-off match in Washington, D.C. in a 22–20 loss to Wales. A week later, he secured his first win, a 42–39 victory over England, during their three-test series. The series title was clinched in the second test, with the Springboks winning 23–12, to secure a series victory. However, South Africa were unable to gain the clean-sweep, after losing the third test, 25–10. During the 2018 Rugby Championship, Erasmus led the Springboks to second, their best placing since 2014. The 2018 Championship saw South Africa win three games, including a thrilling 36–34 victory over New Zealand in Wellington, South Africa's first win in New Zealand since 2009. Erasmus later revealed that had the Springboks lost that match, he would have resigned:

"We [had recently] lost to Australia and Argentina, and if we didn't win in Wellington I would have resigned... I have never lost three games in a row as a coach and if I did that I don't deserve to be a Springbok coach. We played New Zealand in Wellington and that was important, as if we lost it I wouldn't be here."[75]

South Africa came within moments of reclaiming the Freedom Cup in the final round, but an All Black try in the dying moments of the game helped New Zealand snatch victory in 32–30 win in Pretoria and retain the cup.

The Springboks won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan after defeating England 32–12 in the final. It was the first time that a Black South African rugby captain got to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, as well as the first time that a team won a final with a defeat in pool stages, the captain being Siya Kolisi who presented South African president Cyril Ramaphosa the number 6 jersey to commemorate Nelson Mandela, who wore the same numbered jersey during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The final match between South Africa and England served as a rematch between the two in reference to the 2007 Rugby World Cup final. This marks the third time South Africa has won the World Cup which ties the team with the All Blacks for most Rugby World Cup wins.

Crest and colours[edit]

Team name and emblem[edit]

The first springbok logo was introduced in 1906; this emblem has been regarded as representing apartheid's exclusion politics
Since 1992, the protea has been displayed on team jerseys (alongside the springbok) and used as the official emblem on blazers and caps

Paul Roos's team had first introduced the Springbok in 1906–07 tour of Britain in an attempt to prevent the British press from inventing their own name. At this point in time, it promoted a measure of unity among white English and Afrikaans-speaking players after the two Anglo-Boer Wars of the late 19th century.[76] 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 Springbok was regarded as representing both the exclusion of players who were not designated white under apartheid legislation, and by extension of apartheid itself.[77] The first Springboks initially refused to play against a Devon side that included Jimmy Peters, the first black player to represent England.[78] 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.[79] Craven had also indicated that the Springbok was exclusively tied to the white identity of the national rugby team.[77]

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 squads springbok emblem. 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 intervention (Mandela himself was a devoted fan of the Springbok rugby team), 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".[76]

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 the traditional Springbok colours.[80] And in November 2007 the ANC's special conference at Polokwane again endorsed the need for a single symbol for all sporting codes. While critics like Qondisa Ngwenya foresaw a loss of revenue from dumping the springbok emblem,[76] others like Cheeky Watson urged the need for an alternative, unifying symbol.[81]

Jersey[edit]

South Africa play in green jerseys with a gold collar and trim, white shorts and green socks. The jersey is embroidered with the SA Rugby logo on the wearer's left chest and the springbok logo on the right chest.

The first shirt worn by South Africa was a navy blue one in their Tests against the British Isles during the Lions tour of 1891.[82]

The green jersey was first adopted when the British Isles toured South Africa in 1903. After playing the first two Tests in white shirts, South Africa wore a green jersey (supplied by the Diocesan College rugby team) for the first time in their final Test at Newlands.[83] On their first tour to Great Britain and Ireland in 1906–07 South Africa wore a green jersey with white collar, blue shorts, and blue socks taken from the Diocesan College.

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 jerseys. 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.[84]

In 2006 against Ireland in Dublin, to mark the centenary of the Springbok rugby team.[85], a replica of the first jersey was worn.

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 side of the jersey.[86] The new jersey was worn for the first time during the British & Irish Lions' 2009 tour of South Africa.[87]

In 2015 for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the springbok was moved from the front of the jersey to the right sleeve while the Protea remained on the front. This was due to World Cup regulations stating that only the IRB logo and the main team logo could go on the front of the shirt. Several South African rugby fans voiced their disappointment and anger at the reveal of the 2015 shirt as a result of the springbok not being on the front of the shirt.[88]

2017 saw the Springboks wear a red change jersey at Argentina as part of an Asics promotion where the Springboks and Blitzboks wore jerseys in all the colours of the South African flag during the course of the season—the main side wore green, white, and red shirts, while the sevens team turned out in gold, blue and black uniforms.

Sponsors on kit[edit]

Japanese company ASICS is the kit provider for all the South Africa rugby teams,[89] through an agreement signed with the SARU until 2019.[90] South Africa's shirt sponsor is local mobile phone provider MTN Group. Additional uniform sponsors are DHL on the back above the numbers, and Land Rover, FlySafair, and Samsung rotating on the rear hems of the shorts.

2002 South Africa jersey, made by Nike, with springbok emblem on the left side
Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor
1970–1991 Maxmore none
1992–1996 Cotton Traders Lion Lager
1996–1999 Nike No shirt sponsor
2000–2003 Castle Lager*
2004 mid-year internationals None
2004 Tri-Nations Canterbury
December 2004 – 2010 SASOL
2011–2013 Absa
2014–2015 Asics
2016 mid-year internationals Blue Label Telecoms
2017–present MTN Group

* In a 2001 autumn international against France in Saint-Denis, the logo on their kit was replaced by Charles because of the Evin law, which prohibits alcohol companies from advertising during sports events in France.

Home grounds[edit]

The Springboks do not use a single stadium as their home, but they play out of a number of venues throughout South Africa.

The first South African international took place at Port Elizabeth's St George's Park Cricket Ground in 1891.[91]

Main Stadiums[edit]

Venue City Capacity
Ellis Park Stadium Johannesburg 62,500
Loftus Versfeld Stadium Pretoria 51,700
Kings Park Stadium Durban 52,000
Free State Stadium Bloemfontein 46,000
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium Port Elizabeth 46,000
DHL Stadium Cape Town 55,000

The 60,000 seat Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg was the main venue for the 1995 World Cup,[92] where the Springboks defeated the All Blacks in the final. Ellis Park was built in 1928, and in 1955 hosted a record 100,000 people in a Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions.[92]

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 Gqeberha.[93]

The Springboks are said to have a notable advantage over touring sides when playing at high altitude on the Highveld.[94] Games at Ellis Park, Loftus Versfeld, or Vodacom Park are said to present physical problems,[95][96] and to influence a match in a number of other ways, such as the ball travelling further when kicked.[97] 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.[96]


Other Stadiums used[edit]

Venue City Capacity
Soccer City Johannesburg 94,700
Newlands Stadium (**Retired) Cape Town 51,900
Mbombela Stadium Nelspruit 40,900
Buffalo City Stadium East London 16,000
Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace Phokeng 44,500
Puma Stadium eMalahleni 20,000

Other stadiums that have been used for test matches include Buffalo City Stadium in East London, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace outside of Rustenburg, Mbombela Stadium in Mbombela and Puma Stadium in eMalahleni.

The Springboks played their first test match at Soccer City on 21 August 2010, a Tri Nations match against New Zealand.[98]

Records[edit]

Rankings[edit]

Top 20 as of 8 August 2022[99]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 Steady  Ireland 090.03
2 Steady  France 089.41
3 Steady  South Africa 089.41
4 Increase1  England 086.25
5 Decrease1  New Zealand 086.13
6 Steady  Australia 083.30
7 Steady  Scotland 081.93
8 Steady  Wales 081.28
9 Steady  Argentina 079.32
10 Steady  Japan 077.74
11 Steady  Samoa 075.75
12 Steady  Fiji 075.08
13 Steady  Georgia 074.51
14 Steady  Italy 073.29
15 Steady  Spain 069.27
16 Steady  Tonga 067.79
17 Steady  Romania 066.33
18 Steady  Uruguay 065.97
19 Steady  United States 065.17
20 Steady  Portugal 065.08
21 Steady  Chile 061.24
22 Steady  Hong Kong 061.03
23 Steady  Canada 060.99
24 Steady  Namibia 060.56
25 Steady  Russia 058.06
26 Steady  Belgium 055.97
27 Steady  Netherlands 053.69
28 Steady  Brazil 053.31
29 Steady  Poland 053.03
30 Steady  Germany 052.79
* Change from the previous week
South Africa's historical rankings
See or edit source data.
Source: World Rugby[99]
Graph updated to 8 August 2022
World Rugby Ranking Leaders
Ireland national rugby union teamFrance national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamEngland national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamIreland national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamWales national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamEngland national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamEngland national rugby union team

Until the 1990s South Africa were considered the most successful rugby nation in test match history,[citation needed] with a positive win–loss ratio against every test playing nation including their traditional rivals, New Zealand.[citation needed] Since that time, the South African Springboks have lost their winning record against the New Zealand All Blacks.

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.

Overall, the South African Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks have held the number 1 ranking in the world rankings since its introduction in October 2003 for just over 93% of the time (with the New Zealand All Blacks holding the top spot for just over 80% of the time and the South African Springboks holding the top spot for just over 13% of the time). The remaining time at the top of the world rankings are shared between the leading Northern Hemisphere teams, England (the only Northern Hemisphere team to win a World Cup title in 2003), Wales and Ireland.

The South African Springboks also share a record 3 World Cup titles (1995, 2007 and 2019) with the New Zealand All Blacks (1987, 2011 and 2015) and currently has an overall winning % against all nations (including the British and Irish Lions) except for the New Zealand All Blacks.

As of July 2022, they are currently ranked 3rd in the World Rankings.

Games played[edit]

Tournaments[edit]

Rugby Championship[edit]

The Springboks only yearly tournament is The Rugby Championship (formerly Tri-Nations), involving Australia and New Zealand since 1996, with Argentina joining the competition in 2012. The Springboks has won the tournament four times (1998, 2004, 2009, 2019). 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; 2020)
Nation Games Points Bonus
points
Table
points
Titles
won
P W D L PF PA PD
 New Zealand 76 52 0 24 2054 1449 +605 35 243 11
 Australia 76 30 3 43 1591 1817 −226 34 160 3
 South Africa 72 28 1 43 1480 1831 −351 24 138 3
 Argentina 4 1 2 1 56 84 –28 0 8 0
Source:  lassen.co.nz – Tri-Nations, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa

Bonus points given by T – 4W − 2D, for T table points, W games won and D games drawn.

Rugby Championship (2012–Present)
Nation Games Points Bonus
points
Table
points
Titles
won
P W D L PF PA PD
 New Zealand 49 41 2 6 1641 881 +786 31 199 7
 Australia 49 24 3 22 1153 1277 −139 11 113 1
 South Africa 49 23 4 22 1226 1112 +114 22 122 1
 Argentina 49 5 1 43 852 1612 −745 11 33 0
Updated: 7 August 2022
Source:  lassen.co.nz – TRC, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
Bonus points given by T – 4W − 2D, for T table points, W games won and D games drawn.
All-time Tri Nations and Rugby Championship Table (1996–Present)
Nation Games Points Bonus
points
Table
points
Titles
won
P W D L PF PA PD
 New Zealand 125 93 2 30 3705 2330 +1391 66 442 18
 Australia 125 54 6 65 2745 3094 −365 45 273 4
 South Africa 121 51 5 65 2706 2943 −253 46 260 4
 Argentina 53 6 3 44 908 1681 −773 11 41 0
Updated: 7 August 2022
Bonus points given by T – 4W − 2D, for T table points, W games won and D games drawn.

Rugby World Cup[edit]

Rugby World Cup
Year Round Pld W D L PF PA Squad
New Zealand Australia 1987 Barred due to Apartheid
England France Ireland Scotland Wales 1991
South Africa 1995 Champions 6 6 0 0 144 67 Squad
Wales 1999 Third Place 6 5 0 1 219 101 Squad
Australia 2003 Quarter-finals 5 3 0 2 193 89 Squad
France 2007 Champions 7 7 0 0 278 86 Squad
New Zealand 2011 Quarter-finals 5 4 0 1 175 35 Squad
England 2015 Third Place 7 5 0 2 241 108 Squad
Japan 2019 Champions 7 6 0 1 262 67 Squad
France 2023
Total Champions 43 36 0 7 1512 553
  Champions    Runners-up    Third place    Fourth place Home venue

The Springboks 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 the 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.[100]

In 1999 South Africa experienced 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.[101] 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.[102] In 2007 the Springboks defeated Fiji in the Quarter-Final's and Argentina in the Semi-Final's. They then defeated England in the Grand Final 15–6 to win the tournament for a second time. In 2011 the Springboks were defeated by Australia 9–11 in the Quarter-Final's after winning all four of their pool games.

In the 2015 World Cup, South Africa suffered a 32–34 loss to Japan in their first pool match on 19 September, and it has been regarded as one of the biggest upset's in Rugby Union history. They made it to the Semi-Final's but were eventually defeated by the All Blacks 20-18.

In the 2019 RWC, the Springboks lost their first pool match against the All Blacks 23-13, and they than won the rest of their pool matches to advance to the Quarter-Finals, where they beat Japan 26-3, than they beat Wales 19-16 in the Semi-Final's and than they beat England 32-12 in the Grand Final to be crowned the World Champions. South Africa becomes the 2nd country ever to win the Rugby World Cup 3 times.

Series played[edit]

Traditionally, most of the Test Matches against other countries happened during Tours/Series. The first team to visit South Africa were the British Lions in 1891. The first Springbok overseas tour was arranged in 1906–07 to Europe.

Teams Series Played Won
Lost
Drawn
Years/WP
 England 7 4 0 3 1984; (1994); (2000); (2006); 2007; 2012; 2018
 Wales 6 6 0 0 1964; 1995; 2002; 2008; 2014; 2022
 Scotland 2 2 0 0 2003; 2006
 Ireland 4 4 0 0 1981; 1998; 2004; 2016
 France 13 9 2 2 1958; 1967; 1968; 1971; 1974; 1975; (1992); 1993; 1996; 1997; (2001); 2005; 2017
British Lions 14 9 4 1 1891; 1896; 1903; 1910; 1924; 1938; (1955); 1962; 1968; 1974; 1980; 1997; 2009; 2021
 Australia 10 7 2 1 1933; 1937; 1953; 1956; 1961; (1963); 1965; 1969; 1971; 1992;
 Argentina 3 3 0 0 1993; 1994; 1996
 New Zealand 12 5 5 2 (1921); (1928); 1937; 1949; 1956; 1960; 1965; 1970; 1976; 1981; 1994; 1996
Overall 71 49 13 9 75.35%

Overall[edit]

Head To Head Results[edit]

Below is the Test Matches played by South Africa up until 7 August 2022. Only fixtures recognised as Test Matches by the South African Rugby Union are listed.[103][104]

Opponent Played Won Lost Drawn Win % For Aga Diff
 Argentina 32 28 3 1 87.50% 1119 616 +503
 Australia 90 48 39 3 53.33% 1776 1608 +168
British & Irish Lions 49 25 18 6 51.02% 636 554 +82
 Canada 3 3 0 0 100.00% 137 25 +112
 England 44 26 16 2 59.09% 945 756 +189
 Fiji 3 3 0 0 100.00% 129 41 +88
 France 44 27 11 6 61.36% 939 662 +277
 Georgia 2 2 0 0 100.00% 86 28 +58
 Ireland 26 18 7 1 69.23% 506 380 +126
 Italy 15 14 1 0 93.33% 701 174 +527
 Japan 3 2 1 0 66.67% 99 44 +55
 Namibia 3 3 0 0 100.00% 249 16 +233
 New Zealand 102 38 60 4 36.67% 1651 2108 -473
 New Zealand Cavaliers ± 4 3 1 0 75.00% 96 62 +34
Flag of rugby Pacific Islanders.svg Pacific Islanders 1 1 0 0 100.00% 38 24 +14
 Romania 1 1 0 0 100.00% 21 8 +13
 Samoa 9 9 0 0 100.00% 431 99 +332
 Scotland 28 23 5 0 82.14% 742 321 +421
 South American Jaguars 8 7 1 0 87.50% 210 114 +96
 Spain 1 1 0 0 100.00% 47 3 +44
 Tonga 2 2 0 0 100.00% 104 35 +69
 United States 4 4 0 0 100.00% 209 42 +167
 Uruguay 3 3 0 0 100.00% 245 12 +233
 Wales 40 32 7 1 80.00% 1019 642 +377
 World XV 3 3 0 0 100.00% 87 59 +28
Total 521 327 170 24 62.76% 12245 8451 +3778

± The Cavaliers was the name given to an unofficial (rebel) New Zealand team that toured South Africa in 1986. The New Zealand Rugby Union did not sanction the team and do not recognise the side as a New Zealand representative team.

Players[edit]

Current squad[edit]

On 23 July, Head Coach Jacques Nienaber named a 41-man squad for the 2022 Rugby Championship.[105]

  • Caps updated: 7 August 2022

Head coach: South Africa Jacques Nienaber

Player Position Date of birth (age) Caps Club/province
Joseph Dweba Hooker (1995-10-25) 25 October 1995 (age 26) 2 South Africa Stormers
Malcolm Marx Hooker (1994-07-13) 13 July 1994 (age 28) 50 Japan Kubota Spears
Bongi Mbonambi Hooker (1991-01-07) 7 January 1991 (age 31) 51 South Africa Sharks
Thomas du Toit Prop (1995-05-05) 5 May 1995 (age 27) 14 South Africa Sharks
Steven Kitshoff Prop (1992-02-10) 10 February 1992 (age 30) 62 South Africa Stormers
Vincent Koch Prop (1990-03-13) 13 March 1990 (age 32) 35 England Wasps
Frans Malherbe Prop (1991-03-14) 14 March 1991 (age 31) 49 South Africa Stormers
Ntuthuko Mchunu Prop (1999-04-05) 5 April 1999 (age 23) 1 South Africa Sharks
Ox Nché Prop (1995-07-23) 23 July 1995 (age 27) 10 South Africa Sharks
Trevor Nyakane Prop (1989-05-04) 4 May 1989 (age 33) 57 France Racing 92
Lood de Jager Lock (1992-12-17) 17 December 1992 (age 29) 59 Japan Saitama Wild Knights
Eben Etzebeth Lock (1991-10-29) 29 October 1991 (age 30) 101 South Africa Sharks
Salmaan Moerat Lock (1998-03-06) 6 March 1998 (age 24) 2 South Africa Stormers
Franco Mostert Lock (1990-11-27) 27 November 1990 (age 31) 54 Japan Mie Honda Heat
Ruan Nortjé Lock (1998-07-25) 25 July 1998 (age 24) 1 South Africa Bulls
Marvin Orie Lock (1993-02-15) 15 February 1993 (age 29) 8 South Africa Stormers
Pieter-Steph du Toit Loose forward (1992-08-20) 20 August 1992 (age 29) 61 Japan Toyota Verblitz
Rynhardt Elstadt Loose forward (1989-10-20) 20 October 1989 (age 32) 4 France Toulouse
Deon Fourie Loose forward (1986-09-25) 25 September 1986 (age 35) 1 South Africa Stormers
Siya Kolisi (c) Loose forward (1991-06-16) 16 June 1991 (age 31) 66 South Africa Sharks
Elrigh Louw Loose forward (1999-10-20) 20 October 1999 (age 22) 2 South Africa Bulls
Evan Roos Loose forward (2000-01-21) 21 January 2000 (age 22) 1 South Africa Stormers
Kwagga Smith Loose forward (1993-06-11) 11 June 1993 (age 29) 22 Japan Shizuoka Blue Revs
Jasper Wiese Loose forward (1995-10-21) 21 October 1995 (age 26) 14 England Leicester Tigers
Duane Vermeulen Loose forward (1986-07-03) 3 July 1986 (age 36) 61 Ireland Ulster
Faf de Klerk Scrum-half (1991-10-19) 19 October 1991 (age 30) 39 Japan Yokohama Canon Eagles
Jaden Hendrikse Scrum-half (2000-03-23) 23 March 2000 (age 22) 5 South Africa Sharks
Herschel Jantjies Scrum-half (1996-04-22) 22 April 1996 (age 26) 22 South Africa Stormers
Grant Williams Scrum-half (1996-07-22) 22 July 1996 (age 26) 1 South Africa Sharks
Elton Jantjies Fly-half (1990-08-01) 1 August 1990 (age 32) 45 Japan NTT Red Hurricanes
Handré Pollard Fly-half (1994-03-11) 11 March 1994 (age 28) 63 England Leicester Tigers
Lukhanyo Am Centre (1993-11-28) 28 November 1993 (age 28) 29 South Africa Sharks
Damian de Allende Centre (1991-11-25) 25 November 1991 (age 30) 61 Japan Yokohama Canon Eagles
André Esterhuizen Centre (1994-03-30) 30 March 1994 (age 28) 9 England Harlequins
Jesse Kriel Centre (1994-02-15) 15 February 1994 (age 28) 52 Japan Yokohama Canon Eagles
Kurt-Lee Arendse Wing (1996-06-17) 17 June 1996 (age 26) 2 South Africa Bulls
Makazole Mapimpi Wing (1990-07-26) 26 July 1990 (age 32) 28 South Africa Sharks
Willie le Roux Wing (1989-08-18) 18 August 1989 (age 32) 75 Japan Toyota Verblitz
Warrick Gelant Fullback (1995-05-20) 20 May 1995 (age 27) 10 France Racing 92
François Steyn Fullback (1987-05-14) 14 May 1987 (age 35) 74 South Africa Cheetahs
Damian Willemse Fullback (1998-05-07) 7 May 1998 (age 24) 19 South Africa Stormers

Selection Policy[edit]

Strategic Transformation Development Plan 2030 (STDP 2030): The Transformation Charter adopted at a sports Indaba in 2011 was a ‘one-size fits all’ mechanism to guide sport towards the achievement of the longer term transformation goal of an accessible, equitable, sustainable, competitive and demographically representative sport system.

In the case of demographic representation for example, STDP 2030 target of 60% generic Black (black African, Coloured and Indian representation) was set and is the current milestone towards the ultimate goal of a sport demographic profile in line with the national population demographic of 80% black African, 9% Coloured, 9% White and 2% Indian.[106] However the targets are not legally enforceable quotas.

Notable players[edit]

Individual records[edit]

Percy Montgomery holds the South African record for most test points

South Africa's most capped player is Victor Matfield with 127 caps.[107] The most-capped back is Bryan Habana. Percy Montgomery 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).[108]

John Smit was the world's most-capped captain, having captained South Africa in 82 of his 111 Tests, but has since been overtaken.[109][110] Smit also played a record 46 consecutive matches for South Africa.

The record try scorer is Bryan Habana with 67 tries.(as of 14 February 2018)[111]

As of 8 October 2019, Cobus Reinach scored the earliest hat-trick in World Cup history.

Hall of Fame[edit]

Twelve former South African international players have been inducted into either the International Rugby Hall of Fame or the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

  1. Barry "Fairy" Heatlie played 6 Tests between 1896 and 1903.
  2. Bennie Osler played 17 consecutive Tests between 1924 and 1933.
  3. Danie Craven played 16 Tests between 1931 and 1938.
  4. Hennie Muller played 13 Tests between 1949 and 1953.
  5. Frik du Preez played 38 Tests between 1961 and 1971.
  6. Morné du Plessis played 22 Tests between 1971 and 1980.
  7. Naas Botha played 28 Tests between 1980 and 1992.
  8. Danie Gerber played 24 Tests between 1980 and 1992.
  9. Francois Pienaar played 29 Tests between 1993 and 1996.
  10. Joost van der Westhuizen played 89 Tests between 1993 and 2003.
  11. Os du Randt played 80 Tests between 1994 and 2007.
  12. John Smit played 111 Tests between 2000 and 2011. He ended his international career as the most-capped Springbok in history.

In addition to players, the World Rugby Hall of Fame has also inducted the following people:

  1. Kitch Christie, coach of the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning team.
  2. Jake White, coach of the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning team.
  3. Nelson Mandela for his impact on the sport.[112]

Coaches[edit]

Current coaching staff[edit]

The current coaching staff of the South African national team was revealed on 24 January 2020:[113]

Coaches Position
Rassie Erasmus Director of Rugby
Jacques Nienaber Springbok Head Coach
Felix Jones European-Based Coaching Consultant
Deon Davids Assistant Coach (Forwards)
Mzwandile Stick Assistant coach (Backline)
Daan Human Scrum consultant
Andy Edwards Head of Athletic Performance
Dr Konrad von Hagen Team doctor
Lindsay Weyer Technical Analyst
Charles Wessels Head of Operations
Vivian Verwant Physiotherapist
René Naylor Physiotherapist
Tanu Pillay Physiotherapist
JJ Fredericks Logistics manager
Dr Yusuf Hassan Team Doctor
Anneliese PR manager

Former coaches[edit]

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. 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.[114]

Name Years Tests Won Drew Lost Win percent Accomplishments
South Africa Danie Craven 1949–1956 23 17 0 6 73% New Zealand Series Win 1949; Australia Series Win 1953; British and Irish Lions Series Draw 1955; Australia Series Win 1956
South Africa Basil Kenyon 1958 2 0 1 1 0%
South Africa Boy Louw 1960, 1961, 1965 9 6 1 2 67% Australia Series Win 1961
South Africa Izak Van Heerden 1962 4 3 0 1 75% British and Irish Lions Series Win 1962
South Africa Felix du Plessis 1964 1 1 0 0 100%
South Africa Johan Claassen 1964, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974 21 13 3 6 62% British and Irish Lions Series Win 1968; France Series Win 1968; New Zealand Series Win 1970; France Series Win 1971; Australia Series Win 1971
South Africa Hennie Muller 1960, 1961, 1963, 1965 16 7 1 8 44% New Zealand Series Win 1960; Australia Series Win 1963;
South Africa Ian Kirkpatrick 1967, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 12 9 1 2 75% France Series Win 1967; France Series Win 1975, New Zealand Series Win 1976
South Africa Avril Malan 1969–1970 8 4 2 2 50% Australia Series Win 1969
South Africa Nelie Smith 1980–1981 15 12 0 3 80% South American Jaguars Series Win 1980 (1); British and Irish Lions Series Win 1980; South American Jaguars Series Win 1980 (2); Ireland Series Win 1981
South Africa Cecil Moss 1982–1989 12 10 0 2 83% South American Jaguars Series Win 1982; England Series Win 1984; South American Jaguars Series Win 1984; NZ Cavaliers Series Win 1986; World Invitation Series Win 1989
South Africa John Williams 1992 5 1 4 0 20%
South Africa Ian McIntosh 1993–1994 12 4 2 6 33%
South Africa Kitch Christie 1994–1995 14 14 0 0 100% Argentina Series Win 1994; Rugby World Cup Winner 1995
South Africa Andre Markgraaff 1996 13 8 0 5 61% France Series Win 1996; Argentina Series Win 1996
South Africa Carel du Plessis 1997 8 3 0 5 37%
South Africa Nick Mallett 1997–2000 38 27 0 11 71% Ireland Series Win 1998; World record equal longest unbeaten run (17 Games) 1997–1998; Tri-Nations Winner 1998; Italy Series Win 1999; Rugby World Cup 3rd Place 1999
South Africa Harry Viljoen 2000–2001 15 8 1 7 53%
South Africa Rudolf Straeuli 2002–2003 23 12 0 11 52% Wales Series Win 2002; Scotland Series Win 2003
South Africa Jake White 2004–2007 54 36 1 17 66% Ireland Series Win 2004; Tri-Nations Winner 2004; France Series Win 2005; Scotland Series Win 2006; England Series Win 2007; Rugby World Cup Winner 2007
South Africa Peter de Villiers 2008–2011 48 30 0 18 62% Wales Series Win 2008; Tri-Nations Winner 2009; British and Irish Lions Series Win 2009; Beat the All Blacks three times in one year; Italy Series Win 2010
South Africa Heyneke Meyer 2012–2015 48 32 2 14 66% England Series Win 2012; Rugby Championship Runner-up 2013; Wales Series Win 2014 Rugby Championship Runner-up 2014, Rugby World Cup 3rd Place
South Africa Allister Coetzee 2016–2017 25 11 2 12 44% Ireland Series Win 2016; France Series Win 2017
South Africa Rassie Erasmus 2018–2019 26 17 1 8 65% England Series Win 2018; Rugby Championship Runner-up 2018; Rugby Championship Winner 2019; Rugby World Cup Winner 2019
South Africa Jacques Nienaber 2020– 17 11 0 6 65% British and Irish Lions Series Win 2021, Wales Series Win 2022

In popular culture[edit]

  • The conquest of the 2019 title was filmed through a 5-episode SuperSport documentary, named Chasing the Sun.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by Laureus World Team of the Year
2008
Succeeded by

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

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