|Union||South African Rugby Union|
|Nickname(s)||Springboks, Springbokke, Boks, Bokke,
|Emblem(s)||the Springbok and the Protea|
|Coach(es)||Peter de Villiers|
|Most caps||Percy Montgomery (102)|
|Top scorer||Percy Montgomery (893)|
|Most tries||Joost van der Westhuizen (38)|
|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||4 (First in 1995)|
|Best result||Champions, 1995 and 2007|
The South African national rugby union team (the Springboks) are the current holders of the Rugby World Cup and the Tri-Nations Championship. They are ranked number two in the IRB World Rankings as of 20 January 2010. They were named 2008 Team of the Year at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards. As of 23 October 2009, the Springboks are holders of every major trophy available to them: the World Cup, the Tri-Nations, Nelson Mandela Plate, Freedom Cup and British and Irish Lions Series Winners.
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 then 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. South Africa regained their title as champions in 2007, 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.
The Springboks play in green and gold jerseys, and their emblems are the Springbok and the Protea. The side have been playing international rugby since 1891, when a British Isles side toured the nation, playing South Africa in their first Test on 30 July. South Africa is currently coached by Peter de Villiers, after Jake White, who led the Boks to the 2007 World Cup title, announced his resignation effective at the end of 2007. The current captain is John Smit, who was returned to his traditional position of hooker effective with the Boks' last 2009 Test against Ireland after having been moved to tighthead prop for the 2008 end of year tests, and spending the next 12 months in that position.
The first-ever 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 ever 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 ever 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 the 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 the 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.
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 the All Blacks won its first ever 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 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.
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, losing on tour to Ireland, Scotland, 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 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 Africa 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 1984 England toured losing both test matches on tour. Of the players selected, only Ralph Knibbs of Bristol refused to tour for political reasons.
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. The team was advertised inside South Africa as the All Blacks, and the Springboks won the series.
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, and in their first game after readmission the Springboks were defeated 27–24 by New Zealand on 15 August 1992. 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 got behind the 'one team, one country' slogan.
South Africa narrowly won the epic 1995 Rugby World Cup Final 15–12 against traditional rivals the All Blacks, who later claimed that players were suffering from severe food poisoning prior to the match. A drop goal by Joel Stransky secured victory in extra-time..
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. 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 leukemia 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 Britain and France in late 1997. In 1998 Mallett and new captain Gary Teichmann produced a record 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.
At Twickenham in November 2002 England defeated South Africa 53–3 which was their worst ever loss. 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 easily defeated in the quarter finals of the 2003 World Cup.
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.
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. However, even if the try was awarded and converted, South Africa would still have won the match, and slow motion replays clearly demonstrated that no try was scored. The Springboks won the match fairly comfortably without extending themselves and joined Australia as the only other national team to have won the trophy twice— again reinforcing the southern hemisphere dominance in the tournament with five out of six titles to date.
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 ever 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.
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. Their Tri Nations results put them in first place in the IRB World Rankings.
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 will have 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 have already 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 will be the opener of their first Grand Slam tour since 2004, with the Ireland match followed by encounters with Wales, Scotland and England. The Boks will follow up the Grand Slam tour with a match against the Barbarians.
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). Despite a quota system existing to encourage Super 14 and provincial teams to field non-white players transformation has been slow in the opinion of many. 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."
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 shirt sponsor is South African synfuels and chemicals company Sasol. 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 colour, blue short, and blue socks. A replica strip 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 were 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 seater 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, the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, the ABSA Stadium in Durban, Vodacom Park in Bloemfontein, and the EPRFU Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
The first ever 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.
South Africa's only annual tournament is the Tri-Nations competed with Australia and New Zealand. South Africa have won the tournament three times; in 1998 and 2004 and 2009. South Africa also contest the Mandela Challenge Plate with Australia, and the Freedom Cup with New Zealand as part of the Tri-Nations.
Updated 22 September 2009
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 ever 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.
Until the 1990s South Africa was easily the most successful rugby nation in Test match history, with a positive win-loss ratio against every Test playing nation including their traditional rivals, the New Zealand "All Blacks". Despite having to contend with off field problems that the other major Test nations do not face, the Springboks still maintain their positive win-loss ratio against every team, other than New Zealand. The All Blacks eventually managed to overtake South Africa because of a run of Springbok losses caused by the lack of a reliable goal kicker. 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 in the following four years, until victory in the 2007 Rugby World Cup sent them to the top of the rankings. Since then, the top two rankings have been interchanged between South Africa and New Zealand, with the Springboks most recently regaining top spot in July 2009 with a win over the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations and losing it in November 2009 with a loss to France on their end-of-year tour.
|British and Irish Lions||43||21||16||6||48.8%|
|New Zealand Cavaliers||4||3||1||0||75%|
|South American Jaguars||8||7||1||0||87.5%|
See "List of South Africa national rugby union players for a complete list of every player to have represented the Springboks.
A 37-man squad for the autumn internationals was announced on 1 November 2009. Nine new caps were originally included, but ten new players will go on tour since Pierre Spies was ruled out of the tour and was replaced by Jean Deysel. Midweek skipper Chiliboy Ralepelle and prop Gurthrö Steenkamp were injured in the game against Leicester, they were replaced by Cheetahs front-rows Wian du Preez and Adriaan Strauss. Ireland-based prop CJ van der Linde was called up after Jannie du Plessis failed to recover from an inury. Ulster prop BJ Botha was called into the squad to cover for injuries in the tighthead position. Munster centre Jean de Villiers was also called up to the squad for the game against Ireland.
Head Coach: Peter de Villiers
South Africa's most capped player is Percy Montgomery with 102 caps, currently placing him joint seventh with Wallaby Stephen Larkham and current Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll on the all-time list in international rugby. 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 eighth). 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, Morne 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:
Steyn also holds the Springbok record for the fastest 100 points (8 Test matches)
The world's most-capped captain and South Africa's most-capped forward is John Smit, who has captained South Africa in 67 of his 93 Tests. Smit also played 46 consecutive matches for South Africa, which is a record.
Ten former South African internationals 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, one is a member of the IRB Hall of Fame only, and three 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 ever 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. 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 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:
|Name||Tenure||Win % |
|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–present||73% (until 14 September 2009)|