South Africa national rugby union team

South Africa national rugby union team

Rugby team
country = Springboks

union = South African Rugby Union
nickname = Springboks, Springbokke, Bokke,
emblem = the Springbok and the Protea
captain =John Smit
coach =flagicon|South Africa Peter de Villiers
date= 2008-present
caps = Percy Montgomery (102)
top scorer = Percy Montgomery (893)
most tries = Joost van der Westhuizen (38)
pattern_la1 = _SA green2 | pattern_b1 = _green_gold_collar2 | pattern_ra1 = _SA green
leftarm1 = 006400 | body1 = 006400 | rightarm1 = 006400
shorts1 = FFFFFF | socks1 = 006400
pattern_la2 = | pattern_b2 = _greyblue_sleeve_seams | pattern_ra2 =
leftarm2 = FFFFFF | body2 = FFFFFF | rightarm2 = FFFFFF
shorts2 = FFFFFF | socks2 = 006400
first = South Africa 4 - 0 British Isles
(30 July, 1891)
bigwin = ru-rt|RSA 134 - 3 ru|URU
(11 June, 2005)
bigloss = ru|ENG 53 - 3 ru-rt|RSA
(23 November, 2002)
World cup apps = 4
year = 1995
best = Champions, 1995 and 2007

The South Africa national rugby union team (commonly referred to as the Springboks in English, Springbokke in Afrikaans and Amabokoboko in Zulu), are the reigning World Champions of Rugby and are currently ranked number 2 in the IRB World Rankings. In addition to playing in the World Cup, the Springboks compete annually in the Tri Nations, alongside the New Zealand All Blacks and Australia's Wallabies, and a number of other international competitions.

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 the 1987 and 1991 due to anti-Apartheid sporting boycotts of South Africa. The team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the recently unified nation of South Africa hosted the tournament. The Springboks defeated the All Blacks 15-12 in the 1995 Rugby World Cup 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 relationship 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 gained enough points to be promoted to first position in the IRB World Rankings—the first time that they have occupied the primary rank.

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. It has been officially announced that John Smit will continue as captain of the Springboks despite his post-World Cup move to the French Top 14 side Clermont. [cite press release|url= |title=John Smit to Captain Springboks |publisher=South African Rugby Union |date=2008-02-20 |accessdate=2008-02-25]


Early years

When Canon George Oglivie became headmaster of Diocesan College in Cape Town in 1861, he introduced the game of football, as played at Winchester School. This version of football, which included handling, is seen as the beginnings of rugby in South Africa.cite news| url= |title=Mighty Boks: South African rugby | |last=Davies |first=Sean |accessdate=2007-10-11 |date=2006-09-28] Allen (2003), pg 48.] Soon, the young gentlemen of Cape Town joined in and the first match in South Africa took place between the "Officers of the Army" and the "Gentlemen of the Civil Service" at Green Point in Cape Town in 1862 and ended as a 0–0 draw.cite web| url= |title=Philatelic Stories » Green Point | |accessdate=2008-04-15]

Rugby began to be played in the Cape colony around 1875, the following year the first rugby (as opposed to Winchester football) club was formed. Former England international William Henry Milton arrived in Cape Town in 1878. He joined the Villagers club and started playing and preaching rugby. By the end of that year Cape Town had all but abandoned the Winchester game in favour of rugby. British colonists helped spread the game through the Eastern Cape, Natal and along the gold and diamond routes to Kimberley and Johannesburg.cite web| url= |title=Origins of the Game | |accessdate=2008-04-15] British troops would also play a key role in spreading the game throughout the country.

In 1887, the Stellenbosch club was formed in the farming district outside Cape Town. Rugby was enthusiastically adopted by the young Boers. In 1883 the Western Province Rugby Union was formed to help administer the game in the Western Cape.cite web| url= |title="Club History" | |date=2007-04-17 |accessdate=2008-04-15 |last=Babrow |first=Louis] Griqualand West followed in 1886, Eastern Province in 1888, and Transvaal in 1889. The South African Rugby Board, to govern white rugby players in the country, was founded during the same year.cite web| url= |title=National Unions | |accessdate=2008-04-17] The first nationwide tournament was held at Kimberley in 1889, with the Western Province prevailing over Griqualand West, Eastern Province and Transvaal.cite news| url=,18259,3844_1733706,00.html |title=Currie Cup: The History | |date=2001-08-21 |accessdate=2008-04-17]

First internationals

The first-ever British Isles tour took place in 1891, with the trip financially underwritten by Cape Colony Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes.cite web| url= |title=1891 South Africa | |accessdate=2008-04-19] 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.cite web| url= |title=TOUR: 1891 South Africa | |accessdate=2008-04-26] 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.cite web| url= |title=1896 – South Africa | |accessdate=2008-04-26] Allen (2007), pg 174.] For the first time South Africa had worn myrtle green shirts, which their captain, Barry Heatlie, borrowed from his Old Diocesian club. Rugby was given a huge boost by the early Lions tours, which created great interest in the South African press.Nauright (1997), pg 40.]

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 forcesFact|date=October 2007. The game had spread amongst the Afrikaner population through POW games during the Boer War,Van Der Merwe (1992). ] 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.Allen (2007), pg 177.] cite web| url= |title=1903 – South Africa | |accessdate=2008-04-26] 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.Allen (2007), pg 182.]

During this tour the nickname "Springboks" was first used. At an impromptu meeting, team captain Paul Roos invented the nickname to prevent the British press from coining their own nickname.cite news| url= |title=Symbol of unity: the Springbok vs the Protea | |date=2008-01-16 |last=Evans |first=Ian |accessdate=2008-02-12] Newspaper reporters were to call the team "De Springbokken", and later The Daily Mail printed an article referring to the "Springboks".cite news| title=Bafana Bafana need to put a sting in their tale |url= | |last=Eberl |first=Nikolaus |date=2007-10-30 |accessdate=2008-04-26] 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.cite news| url= |title=World Champions Face Next Test: Springboks Blossom, Flowers of a New Land |publisher=International Herald Tribune |accessdate=2008-04-26 |date=1995-11-14 |last=Thomsen |first=Ian] The trip helped heal wounds after the Boer War and instilled a sense of national pride among South Africans.Allen (2007), pg 183.]

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.cite web|url= |title=Springboks in Paris 1907-2007... part II | |accessdate=2008-04-26 |date=2007-10-26] cite news| url= |title=Africanders Contre Francois |publisher=Sports Universel Illustrés |language=French |date=January 1907 |accessdate=2008-04-26]

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.cite web| url= |title=1910 - South Africa | |accessdate=2008-04-26]

The Boks' second European tour took place in 1912–13. They beat the four Home nations to earn their first Grand Slam and also went on to defeat France.cite news| url= |title=History favours Springbok slam | |accessdate=2008-04-26 |date=2004-11-04 |last=Standley |first=James]

Inter war

By the first World War New Zealand and South Africa had established themselves as rugby's two greatest powers.The All Blacks had first played Test rugby in 1903, and toured the British Isles in 1905. By 1921 they had won 19 Tests, drawn two and lost three.] Harding (2000) pg 16.] 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".cite news| title=The Passion That Keeps An Old Rivalry Burning |publisher=Sydney Morning Herald |last=Zavos |first=Spiro |page=52 |date=1997-08-09] 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.Harding (2000), pg 18.] 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.Harding (2000), pg 20–21.]

The 1924 British 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.cite news| url= | |title=Early history of the Lions |date=2005-05-18 |last=Davies |first=Sean |accessdate=2008-04-30] cite web| url= |title=1924 - South Africa | |accessdate=2008-02-14] This was the first side to pick up the name Lions, [They were known as 'British Isles Rugby Union Team'—an official name that stayed with them into the 1950s.] apparently picked up from the Lions embroidered on their ties.cite news| url=,18259,3837_1730556,00.html |title=The Lions History - Part 1 |date=2001-05-24 |accessdate=2008-04-30 |]

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.Harding (2000), pg 23.] Harding (2000), pg 25.] 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,Harding (2000), pg 28.] 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."McLean (1987), pg 162.] 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.cite news| url= |title=Six Grand Slam successes |date=2005-11-24 | |accessdate=2008-05-02] cite web| url= |title=Rugby's great leap forward |last=Massie |first=Allan |date=2003-01-27 |accessdate=2008-05-02 |] 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.cite web| url= |title=Dragons & Springboks: The first 100 years |accessdate=2008-05-02 |]

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".cite web| url= |title=THE 1956 SPRINGBOK TOUR | |accessdate=2008-04-27] Despite the All Blacks winning the first Test, the Springboks' won in the third Test 17–6 and scored five tries to none.McLean (1987), pg 194.] 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.cite web| title=1938 - South Africa |url= | |accessdate=2008-02-14]

Post-war era

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.Harding (2000), pg 42.] 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.Harding (2000), pg 46.] Harding (2000), pg 50.] 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. [Under the modern scoring system it would have been a 62–0 defeat.] The team finished with only one loss, to London Counties, from 31 matches.cite news| url= |title=The Battling Years |date=2003-01-28 |accessdate=2008-05-14 |last=Massie |first=Allan]

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."cite news| url= |title=The All Blacks: 100 years of attitude | |last=Hewitt |first=Chris |accessdate=2008-04-27 |date=2005-11-03] Surprise selection Don Clarke from Waikato—nicknamed "the Boot"—kicked the decisive penalties in the final Tests.cite web| url= |title=Don Clarke | |accessdate=2008-05-18]

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.Potter (1961), pg 83.] 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.Potter (1961), pg 84. Note that in today's scoring system, the same scores would have resulted in a 5–3 All Blacks win.] The French then secured a Test series victory in South Africa with their 9–5 victory in front of 90,000 spectators in Johannesburg.Potter (1961), pg 85.] 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.Potter (1961), pg 91.] 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.Potter (1961), pg 106.]


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,cite web| url= |title=Jimmy Mill | |accessdate=1008-05-18] Harding (2000), pg 31.] and the dropping of Ranji Wilson from the New Zealand Army team nine years before that,cite web| url= |title=Ranji Wilson | |accessdate=1008-05-18] 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.Harding (2000), pg 73.]

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.cite web |url= |title='No Maoris - No Tour' poster, 1960 |publisher=Ministry for Culture and Heritage |date=2007-09-10 |accessdate=2008-05-18] The Springboks avenged their 1956 series defeat by winning the Test series 2–1 with a Test drawn.Harding (2000), pg 65.] The first match was won 13–0 by the Springboks with two tries to Hennie van Zyl.Harding (2000), pg 67.] 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."Harding (2000), pg 69.] 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.Harding (2000), pg 70.] The third Test was drawn 11–11 after a last minute sideline conversion from All Black Don Clarke.Harding (2000), pg 71.] The deciding Test was won 8–3 by the Springboks with the decisive try scored by Martin Pelser.Harding (2000), pg 72.]

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.Smith (1980), pg 368.] They lost the Test against South Africa in Durban 24–3, their biggest defeat in 40 years.cite web |url= |title=Rugby Chronology | |accessdate=2007-08-28 ] 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."Smith (1980), pg 369.]

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.cite web| title= Stopping the 1973 tour |url= |publisher=(Ministry for Culture and Heritage |date=2007-05-13 |accessdate=2008-05-18]

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.cite web |url= |title=Small Talk: JPR Williams | |accessdate=2008-05-18 |last=Doyle |first=Paul |date=2007-10-06]

The 1976 All Blacks tour of South Africa went ahead, and the Springboks won by three Tests to one, but coming shortly after the Soweto riots the tour attracted international condemnation and 28 countries boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics in protest, and the next year, in 1977, the Commonwealth signed the Gleneagles Agreement, which discouraged any sporting contact with South Africa. In response to the growing pressure the segregated South African rugby unions merged in 1977. Four years later Errol Tobias would became the first non-white South African to represent his country when he took the field against Ireland. A planned 1979 Springbok tour of France was stopped by the French government, who announced that it was inappropriate for South African teams to tour France.


The Lions toured South Africa in 1980. The team completed a flawless non-Test record, winning 14 out of 14 non-Test matches on the tour. But they lost the first three Tests before winning the last one.

The 1981 tour of New Zealand went ahead in defiance of the Gleneagles Agreement. South Africa lost the series 2–1, but the tour and the massive civil disruption in New Zealand had ramifications far beyond rugby.

South Africa sought to counteract its sporting isolation by inviting the South American Jaguars to tour. The team contained mainly Argentinian players, whose national team had struggled to attract strong international opposition. Eight matches were played between the two teams in the early 1980s—all awarded Test status.

In 1985, a planned All Black tour of South Africa was stopped by the New Zealand High Court. A rebel tour took place the next year by a team known as the Cavaliers. The team was not sanctioned by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, yet consisted of all but two of the original squad that had been selected.cite web| url= |title=Cavaliers rugby tour, 1986 |date=2007-10-23 |publisher=Ministry for Culture and Heritage |accessdate=2008-05-18] 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.

By the time they hosted the 1995 World Cup, the Springboks were seeded ninth. They defeated Australia, Romania, Canada, Western Samoa and France to play in the final. South Africa won the epic World Cup Final against traditional rivals the All Blacks 15–12 at Ellis Park. A drop goal by Joel Stransky secured victory in extra-time. The New Zealanders claimed to have been affected by a virulent food poisoning the day before the fixture.cite web | publisher=The Observer | title=OSM's sporting plaque|url=,,1251765,00.html| accessdate = 2006-08-06] cite web | publisher=Rugby Heaven | title=Suzie never existed|url=| accessdate = 2006-08-06]

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 being diagnosed with leukemia. 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.Palenski (2003), pg 206.] 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 quit in 1997 over a racial comment he made and his successor, Carel du Plessis, got sacked in 1997 and replaced by Nick Mallett. 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.

New millennium

At Twickenham in November 2002 England defeated South Africa 53–3 which was their worst ever. An increasingly frustrated South African side began physically targeting England players during the match, with footage showing captain Corné Krige as a leader.cite web | publisher=BBC Sport | title=Krige in the spotlight|url=| accessdate = 2006-08-06] 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.

Rugby World Cup 2007

Grouped in Pool A at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, they opened their campaign in Paris with a 59–7 victory over Samoa. Next up was England at the Stade de France, where the Springboks triumphed 36–-0. The third pool game against Tonga in Lens was more competitive and they narrowly won 30–25. The final pool game against the USA in Montpellier produced a 64–15 win.

Having won all their pool games, they advanced to the quarter finals to defeat Fiji 37–20 before accounting for Argentina 37–13 in the semi-finals. They prevailed 15–6 over England in a try-less final to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time on 20 October 2007. The Springboks join Australia as the only other national team to win the trophy twice—reinforcing the southern hemisphere dominance in the tournament with five out of six titles to date.

Apartheid and transformation

Even before the apartheid laws were introduced to South Africa in 1948 the Springboks had been an all white team. The team became a symbol of racial division within South Africa, and following the first open elections in 1994, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) instituted a policy of "transformation" in South African sport. In this context transformation can be defined as "a complete alternation of the appearance or character of South African rugby", and one aim is to transform the Springboks into a team more representative of South Africa's race and class.Bolligelo (2006), pg 40.]

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.cite news| url=,,2196068,00.html |title=Springboks keep up search for the right blend of colour coordination |publisher=The Observer |last=Colquhoun |first=Andy |accessdate=2008-04-13 |date=2007-10-21] Despite quota system existing to encourage Super 14 and provincial teams to field non-white players, and the fact that there are more non-white than white rugby players in South Africa,cite news| title=Black and white reality of South African rugby |url= | |accessdate=2008-04-13 |date=2007-10-21 |last=Berger |first=Sebastien] 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.cite web | publisher=IOL | title=Boks to wear original strip against Irish|url=| accessdate = 2006-11-05] 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.cite web | publisher=Australian Rugby Union | title=History of the ARU|url=,183.html| accessdate = 2006-08-06]

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 the a wreath of proteas were added to the logo. When the ANC was elected in 1994 the team's name was not changed to Protea like that of other South African sporting teams only because of the intervention of President Nelson Mandela.cite news| url=,,2196188,00.html |title=Strains show as nation cheers on the Boks | |date=2007-10-21 |accessdate=2008-02-12 |first=Ruaridh |last=Nicoll]

Home grounds

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,cite web| url= |title=The History of Ellis Park | |accessdate=2008-02-14] 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.cite web| url= | |title=Pick and go: Test match results database |accessdate=2008-02-14]

The first ever South African international took place at Port Elizabeth's St George’s Park Cricket Ground in 1891.cite web| url= |title=St George's Park History | |accessdate=2008-02-13 |coauthors=Markman, Ivor; Derry, Debbie] Ellis Park was built in 1928, and in 1955 hosted a record 100,000 people in a Test between South Africa and the British Lions.

The Springboks are said to have a notable advantage over touring sides when playing at high altitude on the Highveld.cite news| title=Lions tour itinerary leaked |url=,,2-9-838_2224190,00.html | |date=2007-11-20 |accessdate=2008-02-14] Games at Ellis Park, Loftus Versfeld, or Vodacom Park are said to present physical problems,cite news| url= |title=Altitude, Madiba spook Aus | |date=2005-07-25 |accessdate=2008-02-14] cite news| url= | |title=It's all in the mind games |date=2001-07-27 |accessdate=2008-02-14] and to influence a match in a number of other ways, such as the ball travelling further when kicked.cite web | | title=Wallabies Focus on Upsetting Springboks|url=,6467.html| accessdate = 2006-08-06] 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.


Tri Nations

South Africa's only annual tournament is the Tri-Nations competed with Australia and New Zealand. South Africa have won the tournament twice; in 1998 and 2004. South Africa also contest the Mandela Challenge Plate with Australia, and the Freedom Cup with New Zealand as part of the Tri-Nations.

World Cup

South Africa did not participate in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups because of the sporting boycott of them due to apartheid. 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.cite web| url= |title=RWC 1995 | |accessdate=2007-09-27] 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.cite web |url= |title=RWC1999 | |accessdate=2007-09-27] 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.cite web |url= |title=RWC2003 | |accessdate=2007-09-27] 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.


IRB World Ranking Leaders
IRB World Ranking leaders
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. They rose to fifth in November that year before falling back to sixth in March 2004. After rising back to fifth in June 2004, they rose to fourth in December that year. They rose to third, then second in 2005. They fell from that high of second to third in July 2006, and were ranked fourth by December 2006. Between then and May 2007 they have fluctuated between fourth and fifth, before settling at fourth by September 2007. They then gained top spot after winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup, temporarily lost it to New Zealand after losing to them in July 2008 - only to regain it with their first ever victory over the All Blacks in Dunedin the following week.But weeks later with back to back victories, the All Blacks regained number one.Ranking archives can be found at the IRB website; [] ]

Their Test record against all nations:cite web| url= |title=South Africa > Head to Head Table | |accessdate=2007-10-08]

Individual records

South Africa's most capped player is Percy Montgomery with 102 caps, placing him joint sixth with Wallaby Stephen Larkham on the all-time list in international rugby. Montgomery also holds the South African record for Test points with 893, which is sixth-highest in international rugby.cite web| url= |title=International Individual Records | |accessdate=2007-10-31 |date=2007-10-22] The most points Montgomery ever scored in a single international was 35 against Namibia in 2007—this is also a South African record.

South Africa's most capped captain is John Smit, who has captained South Africa in 52 of his 78 Tests. Smit also played 46 consecutive matches for South Africa, which is a record. The record try scorer is Joost van der Westhuizen who scored 38 tries in his 89 appearances. Prop|capital=yes Os du Randt, who retired in 2007, has the record for appearances of a forward with 80.

Notable players

Nine former South African internationals have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. One of those, Danie Craven, has also been inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame.

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.cite web| url= |title=Bennie Osler | |accessdate=2007-11-30] His last Tests were the five played against Australia when they toured to South Africa in 1933.cite web| url= |title=Bennie Osler | |accessdate=2007-11-30]

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, Rugbycentre and even Number 8.cite web| url= |title=Danie Craven | |accessdate=2007-12-27] However Craven was most famous for popularising the dive pass.Harding (2000), pg 35.] 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.cite news| url= |title=Huge IRB honour for Craven | |date=2007-11-07 |accessdate=2007-12-27] 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.Harding (2000), pg 42.] 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", and was in the second class of inductees into the IRB Hall of Fame; behind Rugby School and William Webb Ellis.

The man most credited with inventing modern number 8 play was Hennie Muller.cite web| url= |title=Hennie Muller | |accessdate=2007-12-28] 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.cite web| title=Inducted: England v South Africa (20/11/04) |url= | |format=pdf |accessdate=2007-12-28 |last=Llewellyn |first=Dai] He was nicknamed "Windhond" (greyhound) due to 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."Harding (2000), pg 50.] 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.cite web| url= |title=Frik Du-Preez - Biography | |accessdate=2007-12-28] 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.cite web| url= |title=Frik du Preez | |accessdate=2007-12-28] Danie Craven said of du Preez, "To my mind he could have played any position on a rugby field with equal brilliance."

Morne du Plessis played 22 Test for South Africa between 1971 and 1980.cite web| url= |title=Morne du Plessis | |accessdate=2007-12-28] 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 the only father son pair to captain South Africa—his father had captained South Africa in 1949.cite web| url= |title=Rugby: Morne du Plessis | |accessdate=2007-12-28 |last=Morgan |first=Brad] He led South Africa to a 3–1 series win over the All Blacks in 1976 and a series win over the British Lions in 1980 by the same margin.cite web| url= |title=Morne du Plessis | |format=pdf |accessdate=2007-12-28]

Both International Hall of Fame inductees Naas Botha and Danie Gerber 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.cite web| url= |title=Naas Botha | |date= |accessdate=2007-12-28] 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.cite web| url= |title=Naas Botha - Biography | |date= |accessdate=2007-12-28] Gerber also made his debut in 1980, and scored 19 tries in his 24 Tests before retiring in 1992.cite web| url= |title=Daniel Gerber | |accessdate=2007-12-28] 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.cite web| url= |title=Danie Gerber |accessdate=2007-12-28 |]

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.cite web| url= |title=Francois Pienaar - Biography | |accessdate=2007-12-29] 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.cite web| url= |title=Francois Pienaar | |accessdate=2007-12-29] Nelson Mandela later wrote "It was under Francois Pienaar's inspiring leadership that rugby became the pride of the entire county. Francois brought the nation together." 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.cite web| url= |title=Joost van der Westhuizen | |accessdate=2007-12-29] At the time of his retirement following the 2003 World Cup he was South Africa's leading try scorer and most capped player.cite news| url= |title=Joost van der Westhuizen | |date=2003-09-24 |accessdate=2007-12-29]


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:

ee also

* South Africa national sevens team
* Rugby union in South Africa
* South Africa vs England
* South Africa vs Ireland
* South Africa vs Wales
* All Blacks vs Springboks
* South African rugby union captains



*cite paper
first = Dean
last = Allen
title = Beating them at their own game: rugby, the Anglo-Boer War and Afrikaner nationalism, 1899-1948
journal = International Journal of the History of Sport
publisher = University of Ulster
date = 2003
volume = 27
issue = 2
pages = 172–189

*cite paper
first = Dean
last = Allen
title = Tours of Reconciliation: Rugby, War and Reconstruction in South Africa, 1891-1907
journal = Sport in History
publisher = Stellenbosch University
date = 2007
volume = 20
issue = 3
pages = 37–57

*cite paper
first = Alana
last = Bolligelo
title = Tracing the development of professionalism in South African Rugby: 1995–2004
version =
publisher = Stellenbosch University
date = 2006-11-06
url =
format =
accessdate = 2008-04-13

*cite book |last=Smith |first=David |coauthors=Williams, Gareth |title=Fields of Praise: The Official History of The Welsh Rugby Union |year=1980 |publisher=University of Wales Press |location=Cardiff |isbn=0-7083-0766-3
*cite paper
first = Floris
last = Van Der Merwe
title = Sport and games in Boer prisoner-of-war camps during the Anglo-Boer war, 1899-1902
version =
publisher = University of Stellenbosch
journal = International Journal of the History of Sport
volume = 9
issue = 3
pages = 439–454
date = 1992
url =
format =



* " [ United Nations, India and the boycott of Apartheid sport] ". "". Accessed August 6, 2006.
* " [ 100 years of SA rugby contact with France] ". "". Accessed August 6, 2006.
* " [ The colours - 1906 - 2006] ". "". Accessed November 14, 2006.
* [ 100 years of South African rugby (part one) - IRB]
* [ 100 years of South African rugby (part two) - IRB]
* [ 100 years of South African rugby (part three) - IRB]

External links

* [ SA Rugby Homepage]
* [ Springbok Rugby Jerseys and Apparel]
* [ Official Merchandise South African Rugby Online Store]
* [ Official South Africa Rugby Store for North America]
* [ Springbok Rugby Hall of Fame.]
* [ Rugby365] Rugby News Site
* [ World Cup Preview]
* [ SA Rugby blog] SA Rugby blog
* [ South African Rugby Blog] South African Rugby blog
* [ We Love Rugby] Video of South Africa Rugby Union Team

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