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The History of South African Rugby

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy

Introduction of Rugby Football to SA

The Dutch began to settle in the Southern tip of Africa from 1652 but it was only with the arrival of permanent British control in 1806 that the economy began to prosper and cultural and political power grew and extended its influence into the region. As elsewhere in the British Empire a wide range of British cultural practices were introduced during the mid 19th century including sports like football and cricket.

ogilvieThe Reverend George Ogilvie ('Gog'), born in 1826 in Wiltshire, England, is credited with introducing football to South Africa, following his appointment as Headmaster of the Diocesan College at Rondenbosch, near Cape Town in 1861 and remained until 1885. Actually, the game he taught was the Winchester football variety, a game he had learned at his former ‘alma mater’, the well-known Hampshire school, Winchester College, Hampshire England. Soon, the young gentlemen of Cape Town joined in and the local press reported a series of football matches between scratch sides conveniently named ‘Town v Suburbs’, Civil servants v All comers or ‘Home v Colonial-born’ etc. etc. but the first game took place on 21st August 1862 between the Army and the Civil service.

Circa 1875 Rugby football began to be played in the Cape colony, though the first club Hamilton RFC formed that year was playing the Winchester game. The following year two further clubs - the Western Province and Villagers - were formed. The former adopted the Rugby rules, while the latter opted for the Winchester code. Indeed it was Winchester Football that the two leading clubs Hamilton and Villager started playing against each other in 1876, and the history of football in South Africa might have been very different, but for the arrival in Cape Town in 1878 of William Henry Milton, the former England back.

By the late 1870s, rugby football was very much battling to survive against Winchester Football and the Western Province club had ceased to exist due to lack of support, but the arrival in Cape Town of William H. Milton in 1878 turned the tide in favour of rugby. Milton, who had played for England only a few years earlier (in 1874 and 1875), joined the Villagers club and started playing and preaching the rugby code. By the end of that year the football playing fraternity in Cape Town had all but abandoned the Winchester game in favour of the Rugby football variety. Ten years later, Milton (later Sir William, the administrator of Southern Rhodesia) represented South Africa at cricket, though by the time the first British tour arrived in 1891, he had given up playing rugby.
In 1883 the W.P.R.F.U. organized the first club competition for a cup, known as the Grand Challenge Cup, also around 1883 the Stellenbosch club was formed and the young Boers from the farming belt took to it likes ducks to water.

Around the same time the game began in Cape Town, started by a number of British regiments and by the end of 1883 Rugby was established right across the coastal belt of the old Cape colony and expanding in popularity. From there it expanded into Kimberley where in 1886 Griqualand West Rugby Union was formed. Next it expanded into the Western Transvaal towns, Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom whilst the Cape Town men introduced it to Pretoria and Johannesburg. Inter-town matches between Pretoria and Johannesburg were being played in 1888 and the following year the Transvaal Rugby Football Union was formed. Association football had been introduced to Natal earlier than Rugby and so Rugby took a little longer to get a foothold. But by 1890 clubs had been formed in Pietermaritzburg, the capital and headquarters of the British army, and in Durban.

In 1889 the South African Rugby Football Board was established to link up and govern the various unions. They held their first tournament the same year ay Kimberley where the Western province, Transvaal, Griqualand West and Eastern province competed. The Western province won the tournament and went on to win the next eight.


Top row: (left to right) A. Richards, T. B. Herold, L. B. Smuts, ?, ?, ?, ?.
Bottom row: H. T. Strungnell, Dan Smith, J. G. Heyneman, ?, R. C. Snedden, E. H. Bisset.

The First International

In 1891 the first British representative team arrived. This had been negotiated by Mr. J. Richards, a member of a well known Cape Town sporting brotherhood, who had been at the famous Rugby school, Leys at Cambridge. Cecil Rhodes, then prime minister of the Cape Colony, took over the whole financial responsibility.

The team consisted of :

W. E. Maclagan (captain)

Scottish International

R. G. Macmillan

Scottish International

P. R. Clauss

Scottish International

W. Wotherspoon

Scottish International

R. L. Aston

English International

W. E. Bromet

English International

P. F. Hancock

English International

W. G. Mitchell

English International

H. Marshall

Subsequently won English cap.

R. Thompson


A. Rotherham

Subsequently won English cap.

E. Bromet


W. A. Lindsay


C. P. Simpson


W. H. Thorman


J. Hammond


W. Jackson


A. A. Surtees


E. Mayfield


J. H. Gould


B. G. Roscoe


T. Whittaker


Edwin Ash

from Richmond, Manager

With such a start studded line-up the South African’s were not expected to compete well but the whole point of the exercise was to gain experience and prepare for the future. The British team duly played 19 matches and won all of them racking up 224 points to 1 (50 goals from 50 tries, 39 tries, 6 dropped goals, 7 penalty goals and 1 goal from mark. Charles (“Haasie”) Versfeld from the Hamilton club at Cape Town scored the only try for the visitors (a try being worth 1 point back then). There were three actual test matches and the combined score of the three tests was only 10 nil which was a tremendous effort.
The visit was a very sporting affair and the visitors paid high tribute to the keenness and enthusiasm for the game all over the country and to the individual merits of several players who they said were clearly of international standard.

1891 British Isles versus Cape Colony match, the first match of the British Isles tour .

The British captain brought with him a gold cup which had been a gift from the late Sir Donald Currie, the founder of the Union Castle Steamship line to South Africa with instructions to give it to the centre putting up the best game during the tour. This went to Griqualand West after a game played in Kimberley. The Griqualand Rugby Union immediately handed this over to the South African Rugby Board to become a perpetual floating inter-center trophy, now known as the Currie Cup competition.

It is often disputed who first won the 'Currie Cup' as it's now know:

  • The first provincial competition took place in 1889 and was won by Western Province before the cup even arrived in South Africa. They have their name on the cup for that year.
  • Griqualand West were presented with the cup in 1891 after their game against the tourists (there was no provincial tournament that year due to the tour). They have their name on the cup also.
  • Western Province won the first provincial tournament that was played for the cup itself in 1892 and their name was added to the cup again.

The tour had been a great success and players all over South Africa learned a lot and the over standard of play improved immensely with in 1 or 2 years.
At the end of their tour Stellenbosch invited them to play a match in Stellenbosch. This invitation was accepted and on 7 September 1891 Stellenbosch became one of the very few club teams ever to play an international touring team.

Marthinus Daneel, father of George, and Stellenbosch’s wing had already crossed the British goal line but instead of placing the ball for a try; he wanted to be closer to the goalposts. In those days a try counted for one point and a goal for three points. The British were 2-0 ahead and if Marthinus could place the ball under the goalposts Stellenbosch would win.

Unfortunately it was Maclaglan himself who got hold of Daneel and there followed what was called a "maul". A maul then was a duel between two players in which other players were not allowed to participate. Depending on who won the ball it would either be placed for a try or placed behind the dead ball line. Maclaglan won this maul and Stellenbosch’s chance of winning was lost.

In 1896 the second British team visited and this time in the final match of the tour South Africa beat them 5 – 0 at Cape Town to record South Africa’s first international victory.

Also in 1896 Cecil John Rhodes presented a trophy to the South African Coloured Rugby Football Board (SACRFB) for their domestic competition. It was first played for in Kimberley in 1898 when Western Province won.

The Rhodes Cup

In 1903 the British came again and this time they could only win 11 matches, lost 8 and drew 3.
Until the last test of the1903 series, the South African team donned either white jerseys or jerseys in the colours of the Union/club hosting the match and had no badge on their jerseys and, in fact, white is even today South Africa’s alternative kit. However, before the third and final test at Newlands the then South African captain Barry H. Heatlie was asked by an unnamed official to consider changing the habit, with the view of giving South Africa a permanent jersey. Heatley, one of the greats of South Africa’s pioneering period, recalled the moment green was adopted as the jersey colour: “At the time I had on hand a supply of dark green jerseys, the colours of the defunct Old Diocesan’s Club. It was decided to wear those jerseys at Newlands, and ever since South African fifteens have been clad in green.”

The First Tour

In 1905 the famous New Zealanders made their tour of the mother country with tremendous success and this spurred the South Africans to do the same so in 1906 the first International tour to the United Kingdom was organized with the team captained by Paul Roos and vice-captained by H. J. Carolin. Regarding the Springbok badge, the manager of the 1906 tour John. Cecil “Daddy” Carden, observed that it existed when the team left South Africa. In a letter to the author of the history of SA Rugby Ivor Difford, Carden quoted an article published by the London Daily Mail on September 20, 1906, as follows: “The team’s colours will be myrtle green jerseys with gold collar. They would wear dark blue shorts and dark blue stockings and the jersey would have been embroidered in mouse-coloured silk on the left breast a springbok, a small African antelope…” 
The name Springboks, an anglicised version of the Afrikaans word Springbokken, was the brainchild of skipper Roos, vice-captain Carolin and manager Carden, as the latter recalled: “No uniforms or blazers had been provided and we were a motley turn-out at practice at Richmond. That evening, 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 at once ordered the dark green, gold-edged blazers and still have the first Springbok pocket badge that was made”.

Note: 1780 - Eberhard August Wilhelm Von Zimmerman, a German geographer and zoologist first scientifically classifies the ANTIDORCAS MARSUPIALIS, a small common gazelle of South Africa commonly known as the SPRINGBOK - now the emblem and name of the South African national rugby union team

The results speak for themselves:













Text Match




South Africa v Scotland




South Africa v Ireland




South Africa v Wales




South Africa v England




The first match was in Northampton against Eastern Counties and was won easily by the Springboks after an exhibition of running rugby brought them nine tries. In the second match in Leicester, the visitors scored five tries and two drop goals to defeat a powerful Midlands team captained by VH Cartwright, 29 - 0, centre S.C de Melker giving an exhibition of centre three-quarter play. It was also the match, in which the visitors won the heart of the public.
The tour progressed in similar fashion, though the North and Devon in England and Newport and Glamorgan County in Wales gave the visitors a warning of things to come. The mystery of the ‘loose head’ in the scrum, effectively employed by the Welsh, was solved by Carolin and WA Millar, who, although not among those originally selected, made the tour as a replacement for B. P. Mosenthal. The Springbok pack practiced the ‘loose head’ in the dining room of the Gloucester Arms Hotel and, as a result, their forwards came to enjoy a wealth of possession, which Kriege, Loubster, Stegman and the rest of the backs manufactured into tries. Matches against universities, won with comparative ease by the visitors, were followed by the first foray into Scotland, against the South in Hawick; the fast Springbok backs prevailed against the hard Scottish pack, winning by 32-5 in what was a good springboard for the weekend test against the Scots, the already the sixteenth match of the tour
It was time for Scotland, who had led for most of the match against the 1905 All Blacks only to lose 12-7 in the final stages in Inverleith, to do themselves justice. In the Glasgow match, played at the soccer stadium Hampden Park, there was neither the frost nor the fog that affected the game against New Zealand the previous year and, in the event, with the Scottish forwards led by ‘Darkie’ Bedell-Sivright and JC MacCallum dominant, the match was decided by the swift movements of two back divisions which ‘surpassed themselves in speed, skill and deft handling’, as a contemporary observer put it, that made the day.
K. G.  McLeod, who had made his international debut the previous year as a 17-year old, scored a memorable try following a cross-kick by P Monro. A further try by A. B. H. L. Purves following a Scottish forward rush dealt the mortal blow to the gallant Springboks, who were decimated by injury. Already without injured skipper Roos, the South Africans lost Brink, Mare and then Marsberg during the match but battled bravely until the end against the rampant Scots.
A return to winning ways against North of Scotland, with only four of the players from the test side in action, was followed by the Irish test. With Paul Roos back in the side - and again wearing white to avoid a clash with the Irish jerseys - the Springboks played like men possessed against a strong Irish side led by the legendary Basil Maclear. The Springboks won 12-3 and after a game against Dublin University returned to the UK mainland for the Welsh test.
As the conquerors of the All Blacks the previous year and welcoming back the great Gwyn Nicholls, Wales were expected to win. But on the day it was the Springboks back division boasting Krige, Loubster, Joubert and Marsberg that dominated to inflict a devastating 11-0 defeat on the incredulous Welsh. The silence at the end of the game in Swansea had ‘almost material consistency’, noted an eye witness. “We were a very happy band in Swansea that night,” noted Carolin.
The last test against England, a week later at Crystal Palace ended in a 3-3 draw on a heavy, greasy field that naturally deprived the South African backs of their expected supremacy. The Springboks scored in the first half through Millar and England leveled the score in the second half, through Freddy Brooks, a Rhodesian who should probably have played for the South Africans. A few more matches were played, including a second defeat, 17-0 at the hands of Cardiff in ankle deep mud, before the team went over to Paris for an unofficial test against the French and in a one-sided encounter the Springboks demolished the French XV 55-6, to end a most satisfying tour in style.
Some interesting points:
1. The game against Scotland was in sodden conditions and the South African’s complained about the Scottish forwards who would rather kick the man than the ball (4 South African players had to leave the field due to injuries).
2. The Welsh team had been the only team to beat the All blacks the year before.
3. England’s try was scored by a Rhodesian F. G. Brooks who was on holiday in England and who was some months short of his residential qualifications preventing him from being picked for South Africa (then 5 years). He was born in India, Educated at Bedford Grammar school in England. He went on to play for South Africa and was a fine wing three-quarters for them.

The Springboks followed this success with a tour in 1912-13 during which they defeated Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and England at Twickenham (which was England's first defeat there since it opened in 1909.

The Springboks went from strength to strength and did not lose any home test match series until 1974 and also won or drew all of their series of tests from 1903 to 1956.


No history of South African Rugby would be complete without mention of apartheid and although some would suggest that there should be a seperation between sport and politics they are inextricably linked.

As mentioned earlier, South Africa was colonized by the English and Dutch in the seventeenth century. English domination of the Dutch descendents (known as Boers or Afrikaners) resulted in the Dutch establishing the new colonies of Orange Free State and Transvaal. The discovery of diamonds in these lands around 1900 resulted in an English invasion which sparked the Boer War. Following independence from England, an uneasy power-sharing between the two groups held sway until the 1940's, when the Afrikaner National Party was able to gain a strong majority. Strategists in the National Party invented apartheid as a means to cement their control over the economic and social system. Initially, aim of the apartheid was to maintain white domination while extending racial separation. Starting in the 60's, a plan of "Grand Apartheid'' was executed, emphasizing territorial separation and police repression.

With the enactment of apartheid laws in 1948, racial discrimination was institutionalized. Race laws touched every aspect of social life, including a prohibition of marriage between non-whites and whites, and the sanctioning of "white-only'' jobs. In 1950, the Population Registration Act required that all South Africans be racially classified into one of three categories: white, black (African), or colored (of mixed decent). The coloured category included major subgroups of Indians and Asians. Classification into these categories was based on appearance, social acceptance, and descent. For example, a white person was defined as "in appearance obviously a white person or generally accepted as a white person.'' A person could not be considered white if one of his or her parents were non-white. The determination that a person was "obviously white'' would take into account "his habits, education, and speech and deportment and demeanor.'' A black person would be of or accepted as a member of an African tribe or race, and a colored person is one that is not black or white. The Department of Home Affairs (a government bureau) was responsible for the classification of the citizenry. Non-compliance with the race laws were dealt with harshly. All blacks were required to carry "pass books'' containing fingerprints, photo and information on access to non-black areas.

The practice of apartheid existed in South Africa for more than forty years and came to an end when Nelson Mandela (see also African National Congress) was elected president in 1994.

During the apartheid era racially segregated sport was one of the most divisive issues. The rugby team in particular became synonymous with apartheid. Rugby was a British public school invention, played by the cream of colonial Anglo Saxon society. But in South Africa, it was Afrikaners who dominated the sport, and for them it was more than a game – it was an expression of resurgent Afrikaner nationalism, an opportunity for mauling, rucking, physical revenge against an old political foe. To black South Africans, rugby had a different meaning: it was a white man’s game, and a brutally hard one at that, the sport of the apartheid police, the apartheid army, and the apartheid government. The theme was taken up across the world. Each time a South African rugby team ventured abroad, it had to run a gauntlet of booing, egg-flinging protesters.

This is not to say that non-whites didn't play rugby, indeed, white missionaries used sport as a way to encourage 'respectibility' in the emerging non-white middle class during the early 19th century. This included Cricket, Tennis, Croquet, Soccer and of course Rugby. In fact Rugby dominated the non-white sports scene in places like the Cape colony and the Eastern Cape in particular through to the late 1960s but rugby organisation (Western province coloured rugby union was founded in 1886 and the South African Coloured Rugby Board (SACRB) was founded in 1896) and teams were kept segregated with discrimination against black and coloured players and little government funding.

In 1919 New Zealand toured South Africa, however, the SARFB stipulated that no players with Maori blood should be included in the side. An All Black of West Indian extraction, Ranji Wilson, was sent home as a result.

The Springboks themselves went on tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1921. There were three tests played against New Zealand with NZ winning the first, SA winning the second and the forth drawn to tie the series.

The British Isles toured SA in 1924, this was the first time they were called the Lions. The series was tied with the Lions winning 9 games and losing 9 games.

The All Blacks returned in 1928 and once again the series was drawn and once again the Maories were left behind. In fact they were left out of the 1949 and 1960 sides too but objections were beginning to grow.

Rugby was growing in popularity amongst coloured communities and in 1935 the South African Bantu Rugby Board was founded with J M Dippa as president and Hayley Plaatue of Kimberley as secretary.

In 1939 the SACRB chose a team to go on an internal tour. The team played 9 matches and lost just two. This touring team was called the Springboks. Its colours were green and gold and its blazer badge carried a leaping springbok with the words '1st National Team 1939'. The second world war dashed the SACRB's hopes of sending the team abroad.

Schools rugby with annual tournaments was an important feature of the game amongst the black players. The first of the annual inter-schools tournaments was played in 1943 with Healdtown beeting the Welsh in the final. The last tournament was won by Langa High school in 1964.

Not only was there separation between coloured and white rugby during the aparteid era, but there were also conflicting interests amongst the controlling black and coloured bodies. In 1959 there was a massive split in the SACRB when the Western Province League (the largest part of SACRB) opted to break away from the SACRB and form the South African Rugby Football Federation under Charles Loriston. Each body sent representatives to the RFUs centenary celebrations in 1971.

From 1960 international criticism of apartheid grew steeply in the wake of "The Wind of Change" speech by the British Prime Minister, Macmillan, and the Sharpeville massacre near Johannesburg in South Africa. From then onward, the Springboks, perceived as prominent representatives of apartheid South Africa, were increasingly internationally isolated.

The South African Coloured Rugby Board became the South African Rugby Union in 1966.

Attitudes in South Africa's rugby hierarchy were beginning to welcome non-white players and coloured teams began to face white sides at the end of the 1970s, with Tobias and Avril Williams progressing through the ranks to become the first non-whites to play for South Africa. Tobias recalls Doctor Danie Craven, the then head of South African rugby, praising the non-white sides, telling them, "you guys are on the right track".

The SARFF also sent a team to tour the UK and Holland in 1971 much to the disapproval of the SARU and those who beleived that society should be normalized before sport was. Then several African clubs, previously affiliated to the SAARB crossed over to the SARU.

Coming shortly after the Soweto riots, the 1976 All Blacks tour of South Africa attracted international condemnation and 28 countries boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics in protest. The following year, the Commonwealth signed the' Gleneagles Agreement', which discouraged any sporting contact with South Africa.

A planned 1979 Springbok tour of France was stopped by the French government, which announced that it was inappropriate for South African teams to tour France.

Fours Unions existed in 1981
SARFB White Players
SARU Non-racial Mixed
SARA Black African
SARFF Coloured Players

Errol Tobias

South Africa then toured New Zealand in defiance of the Gleneagles Agreement but something rather special happened, Errol Tobias, a black man, was selected to play for the Springboks and became the first non-white player in the history of the Springboks to win a cap. His selection was opposed by sections of the white community but also by sections of the non-white community who thought he should not turn out for a sport so associated with the apartheid regime.

Tobias recalls "I knew there were people who were saying that, but I decided that I was going to show South African people that all men are born equal. I wanted to show them that colour doesn't matter - if you have got the skills then you should play for your country. My goal was to show the country and the rest of the world that we had black players who were equally as good if not better than the whites, and that if you are good enough you should play."

Tobias went on to gain 6 caps and 22 test points, between 1981 and 1984.

Banned from international competition

After the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand, South Africa was banned by the International Rugby Board from international competition until such time as apartheid ended and while racial segregation and persecution continued for a good ten years after his debut, his appearence in the green and gold played a part in broadening the horizons of the rugby public.

By the end of the 1980s, South Africa was at the receiving end of all number of sanctions, ranging from economic to diplomatic. But in a country that is fiercely proud of its prowess on the field of play, the sporting embargo was perhaps the most effective. In between 1984 and 1992, the national team played ten Test matches, missing out on two World Cups and the proposed Lions tour of 1986.

On the 23rd of March 1992 the non-racial South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the South African Rugby Board (SARB) merged to form the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU).

Released After 27 years in jail, Nelson Mandela was subsequently elected President of South Africa and had to face the challenge to "balance black aspirations with white fears", as racial tensions from the apartheid era had not completely disappeared. He attended a game of the Springboks. Mandela recognized that the blacks in the stadium cheered against their home squad, as the Springboks represent prejudice and apartheid in their minds. Mandela asked the newly formed and black-dominated South African Sports Committee to support the Springboks. He then met with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar, and implied that a Springboks victory in the World Cup will unite and inspire the nation.

Winning the World Cup

Sport, like no other South African institution, has shown it has the power to heal old wounds. When the Springboks, won the Rugby World Cup on its home turf in 1995, Nelson Mandela donned the No 6 shirt of the team's captain - Francois Pienaar, a white Afrikaner – and the two embraced in a spontaneous gesture of racial reconciliation which melted hearts around the world. A single moment, and 400 years of colonial strife and bitterness … suddenly seemed so petty.

Mandela and Francois Pienaar after the 1995 World Cup win

That is not to say everything was resolved and even in the RWC winning squad the unity was somewhat patchy. However things are changing in the new South Africa and the South African Rugby Football Union has been working hard to make rugby the game of all South Africans, mainly through an active development programme throughout the country. At provincial age-group levels, players of colour are playing an increasingly prominent role as the development programme.

The 1995 RWC winning squad included another ground breaking black player, Chester Williams.

The South African Rugby Football Union changed its name in 2005 to the current South African Rugby Union.

SARFU (courtesy of the SARFU)

The South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) is the custodian of the Game of rugby in South Africa. SARFU was established in 1992 following the unification of the former SA Rugby Board (SARB) and SA Rugby Union (SARU), paving the way for South Africa’s readmission to the international arena after eight years of isolation.
SARFU has as its members the 14 Provincial Unions - the Blue Bulls (Pretoria), Boland (Wellington), Border (East London), Eastern Province (Port Elizabeth), Falcons (Springs), Free State (Bloemfontein), Golden Lions (Gauteng), Griffons (Welkom), Griqualand West (Kimberley), Leopards (Potchefstroom), Mpumalanga (Witbank), Natal (Durban), South Western Districts (George) and Western Province (Cape Town).
The unified SARFU was founded on three core principles:

  • The establishment of a non-racial, non-political and democratic rugby community, both on and off the field to ensure the leveling of the playing fields at all levels.
  • The development of infrastructure and human resources potential in order to uplift the game in disadvantaged areas and establish it in areas where it was not being played.
  • To ensure that South Africa reclaimed its place amongst the world’s top rugby playing Nations.

23 March: The highlight, without doubt, in a sense the greatest highlight in 130 years of the game in South Africa, was the unification of the national bodies in South Africa, signed at the Kimberley Sun Hotel.
Kimberley was chosen as the venue for it had been the founding city of the SA Rugby Football Board in 1889 and the SA Coloured Rugby Board in 1896.
Impetus had been given to unification when Dr Danie Craven and Dr Louis Luyt, to the annoyance of the government of the day met with the ANC and a SARU delegation, led by Mr Ebrahim Patel. The eventual driving force in the unity process was the late Mr Steve Tshwete, who later became the minister of sport in the 1994 government.
The new body was to be known as the South African Rugby Football Union with its headquarters at Newlands. All committees were shared. The first presidents were Dr Danie Craven (executive president) and Mr Ebrahim Patel as co-president.
Unification meant readmission into international rugby. The Springboks played five tests, and a SA Development team toured the South Pacific.
That year the International Rugby Board awarded the 1995 Rugby World Cup to South Africa.
The game had changed since the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups from which South Africa had been excluded and in the five internationals played that year, South Africa lost to New Zealand, to Australia by a record score, to France in France for the first time and to England by a record score. The French defeat was also a record against France. The only victory was against France in Lyons.
The Springbok coach was John Williams. Naas Botha was the captain.

4 January: Dr Danie Craven died at his home in Stellenbosch.
Mr Ebrahim Patel was the executive president of SARFU with Professor Fritz Eloff as co-president.
The Springboks played seven tests. They lost a series to France in South Africa and a series to Australia in Australia. They won both tests in Argentina.
James Small became the first South African ever sent off in a test match - for verbal abuse to the referee, Ed Morrison.
The Springbok coach was Ian McIntosh. Francois Pienaar was the captain.
The SA Barbarians toured the UK. The Springbok Sevens team played in the Hong Kong Sevens and the inaugural Sevens World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals of both.
Three South African teams took part in the Super 10 competition - Transvaal, Northern Transvaal and Natal. Transvaal became the first winners of the Super 10. They also won the Currie Cup and the Lion Cup.

Dr Louis Luyt became the new president of SARFU.
The Springboks toured New Zealand, losing the series 2-0 with the third test drawn.
There was much controversy surrounding the tour - the sending home of prop Johan le Roux for biting Sean Fitzpatrick's ear, the sacking of the coach Ian McIntosh and an attempt to sack the manager, Jannie Engelbrecht as well.
Kitch Christie replaced Ian McIntosh as the Springbok coach and began an unbeaten sequence of 14 tests with two home victories against Argentina and then away wins against Wales and Scotland.
The South African Under 19 team went to the FIRA International Tournament for the first time and, captained by Corné Krige, won the tournament, beating Italy in the final.
The South African Sevens team again reached the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens.
Natal lost to Queensland in the Final of the Super 10. Transvaal won the Currie Cup.

1995 was a most momentous year in the history of rugby football as the game decided in Paris that it would cease to be "amateur" and become officially professional, a concept embraced in all major countries bar Argentina.
This came about after the best Rugby World Cup organised in the decade - and organised in South Africa and won by South Africa.
In 1994 South Africa had had its first democratic elections and formed its first democratic government, casting fears of revolution aside and embracing hope as never before.
That hope burst into rainbow colour with the Rugby World Cup, seemingly blessing the new nation so desperate for success and affirmation.
It started at Newlands with an opening ceremony of South African splendour, putting to flight all the prophets of doom who had said that South Africa could not host such an event.
It was an emotional day, crowned by the Springboks' decisive victory over Australia in the opening match.
It was not all joy and light. There was a drab match against Romania and an ugly match in Port Elizabeth when the lights failed and three players, including Springbok James Dalton, were sent off.
There was the ghastly injury to Max Britto of the Ivory Coast that left him paralysed.
There was the nasty quarter-final match between the Springboks and Samoa. And all the while the All Blacks were ruling the roost.
Then came the day in the flood at King's park and a match nearly cancelled for the torrents of rain - and then the tide of defence that stopped Abdelatif Benazzi inches form the Springbok line to let the Springboks into the final against the All Blacks with rugby's most feared weapon, big Jonah Lomu.
Nobody who was in South Africa will forget the final - the closing ceremony the SAA Jumbo that flew over head, Nelson Mandela in a No. 6 Springbok jersey, extra time and Joel Stransky's dropped goal which won the match, the most famous kick in rugby's history.
Then there was the almost religious fervour as Francois Pienaar held the golden cup aloft while all around shouted their own alleluias.
South Africa danced in the streets that night - all the streets, from the Cape Flats to Soweto, from Cape Augulus to the Limpopo.
As if too much had been given, the Pandora's box of the World Cup also contained spite and bickering and the danger that rugby would flounder on the rock of professionalism and the war between Rupert Murdoch and Kerry packer, a situation saved by the decisive action of SARFU and its president Louis Luyt.
Natal won the Bankfin-Currie Cup, Transvaal had a players' boycott, South Africa came second in the Southern Hemisphere Under-21 Tournament in Argentina, lost in the semi-final of the FIRA Under 19 tournament and the Springboks were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens.
Two important decisions were made - to reduce the provinces from 22 to 14 and to introduce quotas into all SARFU teams except the Springboks and the top team of each province.
At the end of the year the Springboks, with no visible sign of strain, defeated Wales at Ellis Park and then Italy in Rome and England at Twickenham.

As if South Africa had had too much in 1995, there were problems in 1996.
Kitch Christie, ill with cancer, was forced to retire as coach - an unbeaten coach. André Markgraaff succeeded him.
South Africa played New Zealand five times in 1996, losing four times - twice in the new Tri-Nations, in which the Springboks came second, and twice during the All Blacks' first series victory in South Africa.
Francois Pienaar, the iconic captain of 1995, was not selected for the tour to Argentina and Europe at the end of the year, to a raucous outcry from the nation.
The tour went well with two test victories over the Pumas in Argentina, two over France in France and one over Wales.
It was also the year of the first Super 12 competition, won by the Auckland Blues who beat Natal in the final.
The Sevens Springboks reached the final of the World Sevens in Hong Kong, losing to Fiji in a close final.
The South African A team toured the UK and Ireland.
Natal won the Bankfin-Currie Cup.
The under 19 team was unbeaten at the FIRA tournament but "lost" a draw with Wales on a technicality.
The first year of professional rugby was expensive and problematic.

The second year of professionalism was also problematic.
The year started in the worst way possible with the resignation of the Springbok coach, André Markgraaff following the revelation of surreptitiously taped remarks of a racist nature. Carel du Plessis was appointed coach in his place.
On the playing front there seemed no real cause for concern. The Springboks had ended well in 1996, and the South African teams were not disgraced in the Super 12, which the Auckland Blues won.
The international season was disaster after disaster. The Springboks lost a series to a mediocre British Lions team and then went on to a record defeat by the All Blacks before it ended the season with a record victory over the Wallabies - too late to save Du Plessis's coaching job.
Western Province won the Bankfin-Currie Cup, and then new coach Nick Mallett got his team together, and off they went to Europe.
On that tour the Springboks were to play the most sublime rugby of the decade.
The splendid Springboks played the last test to be played at Parc des Princes before the move to Stade de France. They gave France their biggest defeat ever as they scored seven tries, four by winger Pieter Rossouw.
The Springboks then gave England their heaviest defeat at Twickenham and Scotland their heaviest defeat ever as they scored 54 points in the second half to win 68-10.
Whilst things were improving on the Springbok front, matters were degenerating on the SARFU front as the government, at the prompting of Steve Tshwete, the minister of sport, instigated a process of inquiry into the affairs of SARFU.
In October SARFU challenged the validity of the government's inquiry into rugby in court.

The court business got going in February and on 19 March 1998 President Nelson Mandela appeared in court to defend his action in sanctioning the inquiry. It was a horrible time for rugby.
SARFU won the case, but then Louis Luyt, after a SARFU vote of no-confidence in him, resigned on 10 May 1998, to be replaced as president by Silas Nkanunu.
SARFU introduced regionalisation in the Super 12, dividing the country into four regions.
The Coastal Sharks, Natal at heart, were the only regional team to perform at all well. Certainly the results were a lot worse than those of the provinces had been. The Coastal Sharks were third, the Western Stormers ninth, the Northern Bulls eleventh and the Golden Cats 12th.
The Vodacom Cup for provincial teams, with, for the first time, quotas of black players in each team, ran concurrently with the Super 12. Griqualand West were the first winners.
Western Samoa knocked the Springboks out of the Hong Kong sevens in the semi-final and out of the Commonwealth Games Sevens in the quarter-final.
The SANZAR Under 21 tournament was in South Africa. The home side came third behind Australia and Argentina.
The Lions won the Bankfin-Currie Cup.
The Springboks fought two tests against Ireland and then beat Wales and England, before winning the Tri-Nations unbeaten, including a 24-23 victory over New Zealand when the Springboks were down 23-5 with 12 minutes to go.
At the end of the year, a tour too far, the Springboks, losing lustre by the match, went off to Europe yet again. They came from behind to beat Wales, eventually beat Scotland, and profited from some individual brilliance to beat Ireland and equal the world record of 17 successive test victories before dragging themselves to Twickenham and defeat by England.

World Cup year again - and the dropping of Gary Teichmann to uproar. Joost van der Westhuizen became the captain in an uninspiring World Cup, but for an exhilarating victory of France over New Zealand in the semi-final and the Springboks' quarter-final defeat of England in Paris when Jannie de Beer kicked a record of five drop-goals. The Springboks lost the no-try semi-final to Australia in extra time and then beat the All Blacks for third place.
André Watson of South Africa, at his first World Cup as a referee, refereed the final between Australia and France.
Generally it was a lacklustre year for the Springboks as they lost to Wales for the first time ever and won only one Tri-Nations match.
The Stormers were the best Super 12 side as they surged ahead on a tide of black, but they squabbled about money before a home semi-final and lost.
The best playing achievement in 1999 was the victory over the Under 21 side at the eight-team SANZAR tournament in Buenos Aires when they beat New Zealand 27-25 in a thrilling final, scoring three tries to one.

The highlight of the year was probably the Yesterday's Heroes campaign that saw SARFU honour in splendid fashion all the players of the past who had played tests for the various national bodies which existed from time to time.
Transformation gathered pace. For the first time quotas of black players were introduced into the Bankfin-Currie Cup. There were nine black players on the huge Springbok team that toured at the end of the year.
After sharing a home series with England, the Springboks came last in the Tri-Nations with only an exciting victory over the All Blacks.
The aftermath of that defeat was the resignation of Nick Mallett and his replacement with Harry Viljoen.
Mallett had coached the Springboks through 38 tests - by far the most by any Springbok coach.
In the Super 12 the Cats made the semi-final.
In the IRB's first World Sevens Series the Springboks came fifth.
The Under 21 team reached the final of the SANZAR championship, only to be thrashed by New Zealand.
The Under 19 team came sixth in the FIRA Championship.
France beat South Africa in the final of the Students World Cup.
The Confederation of African Rugby was inaugurated. South Africa was represented by the Under 23 team which won the southern half of the tournament by beating Namibia and Zimbabwe and then went on to beat Morocco in the final.
Western Province won the Bankfin-Currie Cup.
At the end of the year the Boks toured Argentina, Ireland, Wales and England on a nine-match tour. They beat Argentina, Ireland and Wales and lost to England. They also lost midweek matches to Ireland A and the England National Divisional XV, but they beat the Barbarians in splendid fashion as they ran and ran.

The growing commercialisation of the game led to the restructuring of rugby with SARFU approving the creation of a commercial arm, SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd. The company, with a board of directors, looks after competitions and all commercial enterprises, whilst SARFU, as the custodian of the game, looks after all non-commercial aspects of rugby, predominantly game development.
On the field things looked better initially as two South African teams made the Super 12 semi-finals the Cats and the Sharks.
France, looking young and uncertain, shared a series in South Africa, and South Africa came last in the Tri-Nations - an interesting last as they beat and drew with the eventual winners, Australia.
At the end of the year the Springbok lost to France and England, and then let players off to play for the Barbarians while they went on to the USA and an unimpressive performance in Houston.
The Sevens Springboks lost to Argentina in the quarter-final of the Sevens World Cup and again ended fifth in the IRB World Series.
A South African A team toured France, Georgia, England and Spain successfully.
The Under 23 team retained their Confederation of African Rugby Cup when they again beat Morocco in the final.
The Under 21s had a poor tournament ending ranked sixth after losing to Ireland.
The Under 19s were placed fifth in the FIRA-AER Junior World Championship played in Chile after losing to the eventual winners, New Zealand, in the quarter-finals.
Western Province retained the Bankfin-Currie Cup.

The Springboks journeyed to France among the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy. In a campaign that captured the imagination of the Rainbow Nation, the Bok delivered a second World Cup title when they beat defending champions England 15-6 in the final.


  1. Extracts from South African Rugby Union website accessed Nov 10th 2007.
  2. Rugby and the South African Nation – Black David R. & Nauright, John. Manchester university press. 0 7190 4932 6
  3. The history of South African rugby football (1875-1932) Difford, Ivor D. The specialty press of S.A. ltd. Pub. 1933.
  4. Extracts from: Chris Thau three-part series celebrating South African rugby's centenary year.
  5. Extract on apartheid from accessed Nov 11th 2007.
  6. Extracts from accessed Nov 11th 2007.
  7. Visit to SARU museum at Newlands Stadium, May 2011






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