South African national rugby union team

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South Africa
Nickname (s) Springboks ( English )
Springbokke ( Afrikaans )
amaBokoboko ( isiXhosa )
Association South African Rugby Union (SARU)
Trainer South AfricaSouth Africa Jacques Nienaber (since 2020)
captain Siya Kolisi
WR abbreviation RSA
WR rank 1. (94.19 points) (as of February 4, 2020)
Most international matches
Victor Matfield (127)
Most Points Scored
Percy Montgomery (893)
Most attempts scored
Bryan Habana (67)
British Isles 4-0 Cape Colony first international (30 July 1891)
Free Use British and Irish Lions flag.PNG Flag of the Cape Colony (1876–1910) .svg
Biggest win Uruguay 3: 134 South Africa (June 11, 2005)
UruguayUruguay South AfricaSouth Africa
Biggest defeat New Zealand 57-0 South Africa (September 16, 2017)
New ZealandNew Zealand South AfricaSouth Africa
World Championship
participations: 7/9
Best result: World Champion 1995 , 2007 , 2019

The South African national rugby union team is the national team of South Africa in the sport of rugby union and represents the country in all international matches ( test matches ) of the men. The team is better known by its English nickname Springboks , named after the springbok antelope . Colloquially, the team is on Afrikaans as Springbokke and isiXhosa as amaBokoboko referred (in their short forms also Boks or Bokke called). Rugby Union is regarded as one of the national sports of South Africa and the national team has a positive balance sheet against almost every previous opponent, with the exception of the " All Blacks " from New Zealand .

The team makes its most important international appearances at the world championships that take place every four years . So far, South Africa has won the world championship title three times, when it first participated in 1995 and in 2007 and 2019. Besides the All Blacks, the Springboks are the only three-time world champions so far. Since 1996 they have participated in the annual Rugby Championship tournament ( known as Tri Nations until 2011 ). Participants are the four best national teams of the southern hemisphere : In addition to the Springboks, these are the " Pumas " from Argentina , the " Wallabies " from Australia and the "All Blacks". The team has won the Tri Nations three times (1998, 2004 and 2009), including the Rugby Championship for the first time in 2019.

In 1891 the Springboks played their first test match against the British Lions , a selection team from the four British Home Nations . Until it became professional in the mid-1990s, rugby union was an amateur sport that was characterized on an international level by tours abroad, some of which lasted months, in which the national teams not only competed against each other, but also against regional selections and club teams. During the apartheid period , the Springboks had to forego participation in the first two world championships in 1987 and 1991 due to boycott measures.

The team, which appears in gold-green jerseys and white shorts, has always been one of the best in the world and the country's central association, the South African Rugby Union, along with ten others, belongs to the first tier of the World Rugby Association . The national team is currently (June 2020) in first place in the world rugby rankings . In 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2019 World Rugby named them “Team of the Year”. Twelve former players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame .


Rugby fields at the University of Cape Town , South Africa

The South African Rugby Union (SARU), known as the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) until 2005, is responsible for the organization of rugby union in South Africa . It emerged in 1992 from the union of the "white" South African Rugby Board and the South African Rugby Union, which is open to all "races" . The SARU consists of 14 regional associations, each with its own team for the Currie Cup , the oldest and most important league title in South Africa. In addition, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge takes place every year.

In addition to the actual national team, SARU convenes other selection teams. The Junior Springboks are the U-20 national team and take part in the corresponding world championships. Then there are the Blitzboks , the national team for rugby sevens . Children and young people are introduced to the sport of rugby at school and then, depending on their interests and talent, the training begins. The most talented players at school level are brought together annually in Team SA Schools after Craven Week (named after Danie Craven ) . Each South African university has its own rugby team that can participate in the Varsity Cup and the Varsity Shield .

The national championship is superordinated to the international championship Super Rugby, which is held with teams from Australia, New Zealand and Argentina . South Africa is represented by four franchises that are managed by SARU: The Bulls from Pretoria , the Lions from Johannesburg , the Sharks from Durban and the Stormers from Cape Town . Since the seasons overlap only a little, numerous players are used in both professional leagues. Originally six South African franchises were involved. After a restructuring, the Central Cheetahs from Bloemfontein and the Southern Kings from Port Elizabeth switched to the international league Pro14 for the 2017/18 season , in which they compete against teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.


Introduction of rugby in South Africa

Landscape near Stellenbosch , where the Stellenbosch Club was founded in 1883

In 1861 George Ogilvie became principal of Diocesan College , a prestigious boarding school in Cape Town . He introduced a football-like game known as Gog's Game to the students , as taught at Winchester College in England . The game was very similar to today's rugby and is seen as the beginning of rugby in South Africa. It quickly gained popularity among the youth and young adults of Cape Town. On August 23, 1862, the first official game between 17 army officers and 15 officials (including John X Merriman, who later became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony ) took place in the Green Point district and ended 0-0. The local press reported on several football matches between ad hoc teams such as “City versus Suburbs” or “At Home (British) Born versus Colony Born”.

The English Rugby Football Union , founded in 1871, laid down the rules of the game. British colonists and soldiers were largely responsible for the spread of the new sport. William Henry Milton , later administrator of Mashonaland , introduced the standardized rules in South Africa in 1878. Two clubs claim the honor of being the country's premier rugby club, the Hamilton RFC and the Villagers RFC . In 1883 there were already enough clubs in the west of the country to found an association, the Western Province Rugby Football Union . Rugby spread across the country and other regional associations emerged. In 1889 the first national championship took place. The South African Rugby Board , founded in the same year, was only open to white clubs. The clubs of the " Coloreds " and the blacks had to organize themselves in their own associations and their players were excluded from the national team for decades.

The first international matches

Donald Currie donated the Currie Cup
British Selection Game against Cape Colony (1891)
The South African team's second Test match against the British in 1891

In 1891, financed by Cecil Rhodes , the first international tour of a British national team (today's British and Irish Lions ) through South Africa took place. The British won all 20 games against regional teams and the South African selection; It was only in the last game that the Cape Town team managed to score a point. The three Lions encounters against the all-South African selection (the first on July 30th in Port Elizabeth ) are considered test matches , although the South African Union only existed from 1910. During the tour, the British presented a trophy donated by Donald Currie to the team from Griqualand West , which they thought had performed the best. Even today, the Currie Cup is the trophy of the national championship of the same name in South Africa.

Five years later, the Lions returned to South Africa for a 21-game tour. In the meantime, the game of the South Africans had improved noticeably and they could win one of four test matches when they won 5-0 on September 5, 1896. For the first time, the South Africans had worn green shirts that their captain Barry Heatlie had borrowed from his club, Old Dioceseans. Rugby met with great interest in the South African press and experienced an enormous boom as a result. Not only the British colonists but also the Boers of Dutch descent incorporated rugby into their everyday culture. It was so popular that on April 29, 1902, during the Second Boer War, there was even a temporary armistice so that a game could be played between the troops of the British and the Boers. Further dissemination learned Rugby among the Boers than this during the war in British captivity came and fought out in the camps games.

At the Cape, the University of Stellenbosch played an important role in the training of future rugby players and organizers. The first mention of a rugby club in Stellenbosch dates back to 1880, but the official university team was not formed until 1919. Stellenbosch's location near Cape Town, where rugby was well established in the late 19th century, had helped develop the sport. From here the sport was spread through annual tours and Afrikaans teachers and preachers in the surrounding area.

Just a year after the Treaty of Vereeniging , which ended the Second Boer War, the Lions made their third visit to South Africa in 1903. They lost a series for the first time in South Africa by drawing in the first two test matches and losing 8-0 in Cape Town on September 12th in the third. During this tour they could only win eleven of their 22 games. Until 1956, the South Africans lost none of their test match series, neither at home nor away. In the last test match, South Africa played again in the green collarless jerseys of the Old Diocesan Club, which they had already worn during their first victory in 1896. This success of the team led to the decision to only play in green jerseys from now on.

Establishment of the "Springboks"

The team in 1906, against Cambridge
Paul Roos , captain of the Springboks during their first tour of the British Isles in 1906
The 1906 team plays against Cambridge
The Springboks against Cornwall during their European tour in 1912/13

Even before the Lions Tour in 1903, the South African Rugby Board had decided to add a springbok emblem to the green jerseys . However, the emblem could no longer be embroidered on the jerseys in time. The 1906/7 team wore green jerseys with emblems and white collars, as well as black shorts and blue socks. Paul Roos was the first official captain of the South African rugby union team. In 1906/07 he headed the team during the tour of Europe. It comprised 29 games, including a test match each against the national teams of Scotland , England , Wales and Ireland . England drew, while only Scotland won. In addition, the Springboks met in Paris' Parc des Princes on a French selection, which consisted of players from the Paris clubs Stade Français and Racing Club de France . South Africa won the game 55-6 after placing 13 attempts.

Before British newspapers could come up with a nickname for the relatively new team, Paul Roos confirmed that they wanted to call the team De Springbokken , which today - translated into English - became the Springboks . He came up with the name together with Vice-Captain Paddy Carolin and Tour Manager Cecil Carden. Since then, the new "heraldic animal" has always been written on the jerseys. The name "Springbok" was then used for all national players and teams that represented South Africa internationally, regardless of the sport. After the first democratic elections for all South Africans in 1994, this tradition was broken and since then the name has only been used for the rugby national team and their players.

The 1903 Lions tour and the first Springbok tour are considered important events in the reconciliation of the two “white” peoples of South Africa after the devastation of the Second Boer War ( but this was not the case for blacks, coloreds and Indians in South Africa ). Paul Roos' team consisted of players like Billy Millar , who had been badly wounded in the war, AFW Marsberg and WC Martheze, who fought on the British side and WS Morkel, who had been interned on St. Helena . Roos said:

“The tour had united us… from Cape Agulhas to the Zambesi, South Africa was one, and all differences had been forgotten. Here, we are one; may it always be the same. (As for the British) We now understand each other better, and if that is going to be one of the results of our tour, we shall be more than satisfied. "

“The tour had united us… From Cape Agulhas to the Zambezi , South Africa was one and all differences were forgotten. Here we are one; may it always be that way. (As for the British) We get along better now and if that is one of the results of our tour we will be more than satisfied. "

- Paul Roos

The tour also helped improve the standing of South Africans in Britain after the Boers were referred to as "backward looking" in war propaganda. During a dinner following the England draw, Paul Roos told the Sportsman that the draw was "perhaps the best result". It teaches that "everyone should be equal and that 'Dutch' and 'English' should work side by side". He was "proud of his team and the behavior of his men, who came from all parts and parties and included men who had fought on each side". It was seen that “the Bure may not be as bad” as it was portrayed. He also hoped "that in the near future the two races would get along better and work hand in hand for noble purposes".

During the Lions Tour to South Africa in 1910, players from all four Home Nations competed for the Lions for the first time . The tour team had only mediocre success against unofficial teams and only won just over half of their games. Under Irish captain Tom Smyth, the Lions could only win one of their three test matches, the second in Port Elizabeth. The Springboks won the first and last test match of the tour in Johannesburg and Cape Town; they decided the series with 2: 1 for themselves. In the following years the team really blossomed. In 1912/13, the South Africans made the Grand Slam , so they defeated all four Home Nations on one tour and were also able to win against France.

The years between the wars

The Springboks of 1921
The 1937 Springboks

The First World War made international rugby tours impossible. In 1921 the rivalry between the South African Springboks and the All Blacks from New Zealand began, which continues to this day . The two teams were now considered the best in the world, but had never competed against each other before. For this reason, the Springboks tour to Australia and New Zealand was also known as the "Rugby World Cup". The series, consisting of three test matches, ended evenly with one win, one draw and one defeat. The return visit of the All Blacks followed in 1928, and this series also ended evenly.

In 1924 the Lions toured South Africa for the first time in 14 years. They were weakened by injured players and their passing game let the team down. The Lions won only nine of their 21 games in South Africa and they lost all four Test matches during the tour. During their 1931/32 tour to Great Britain, the Springboks made their second Grand Slam, but met with little enthusiasm due to the tactic chosen by captain Bennie Osler of gaining space mainly through kicks. In 1933 the Australian wallabies were guests in South Africa for the first time . With 3: 2 wins, the Springboks won the test match series by a narrow margin.

When the South Africans visited New Zealand again in 1937, they won the series 2-1. The All Blacks won the first test match, but lost the two that followed. As a result, South Africa's 1937 team was often referred to as the best "that has ever left New Zealand". This winning series in New Zealand was followed by two won test matches against the Wallabies in Australia. In 1938 the Lions visited South Africa again and this time they were able to win more than half of their games against selection teams. As expected, the Springboks decided their first two test matches, but surprisingly lost in the third game in Cape Town with 16:21. It was the first Lions victory on South African soil since 1910. World War II brought all international tours to a standstill.

post war period

Wallabies Captain John Solomon is worn by the Springboks (1953)
Game against the Pontypool-Newbridge selection (1951)
The Springboks versus the Llanelli RFC (1951)

Former national player Danie Craven took up the post of national coach in 1949 and the Springboks scored lots of victories in the first ten games under his direction. Among other things, they won all four test matches against the All Blacks on their tour through South Africa - a negative record for the New Zealanders to this day. At the same time, the Australians went on a tour of New Zealand, as the Māori had to stay at home due to the provisions of the apartheid policy and formed a second team with reserve players. Thus, the Springboks played exclusively against Pākehā (New Zealanders of European origin).

The 1951/52 Springboks are considered to be one of the best of South Africa's touring teams. The team won the third Grand Slam against all Home Nations during their tour of the British Isles. The Springboks also beat France, winning 30 of their 31 games; only against a selection of London clubs resulted in a narrow defeat. The 44-0 win against Scotland was particularly outstanding, the clearest result ever (according to modern counting it would have been a 62-0 win). In 1953 the Australians toured South Africa again. In the second test match, the Wallabies inflicted their first defeat on the Springboks in 15 years. They were so impressed by the performance shown that two players carried the Australian captain John Solomon on their shoulders from the field.

During the Lions Tour in 1955, visitors won 19 of their 25 games, in one tie. The series of four test matches ended in a draw. The Lions preferred to sprint with the ball at every opportunity rather than fight it with the South Africans in an open scrum . This tactic helped the Lions set new standards against the Springboks, who were considered almost invincible. In 1956 the Springboks toured New Zealand. The All Blacks managed to win a series of test matches for the first time when they won three out of four games against the South Africans. The All Blacks' success is due to the surprising nomination of Don Clarke , who converted the crucial penalty kicks.

In 1958 France was the second European team to tour South Africa; in general the French were not trusted. But they exceeded all expectations by drawing 3: 3 in the first test match and even winning the second 9: 5. This tour is seen as a turning point in the development of rugby in France, which became one of the best rugby nations in the world.

Increasing anti-apartheid protests

Announcement of a protest meeting of the New Zealand Citizens' All Black Tour Association (1960)

Even before the apartheid laws came into force after 1948, sports teams going to South Africa had deemed it necessary to exclude non-white players. This particularly affected members of the Māori in New Zealand teams. The exclusion of George Nepia and Jimmy Mill from the All Blacks Tour in 1928 and Ranji Wilson from the army team nine years earlier had hardly been commented on at the time. But in 1960 international criticism of apartheid increased considerably in the wake of the "Wind of Change" speech by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the Sharpeville massacre . From this point on, the Springboks increasingly became the target of international controversy and protests. In the same year, the All Blacks toured South Africa without their Māori players, who had been expelled at the urging of the South African government. In New Zealand itself, this was highly controversial: A petition organized by the Citizens' All Black Tour Association with more than 150,000 signatures had unsuccessfully demanded that the tour be canceled. From a sporting point of view, the test matches resulted in two wins, one draw and one defeat for the Springboks. The Springboks toured Europe around the turn of the year 1960/61. With narrow wins against all Home Nations they managed the fourth Grand Slam, but they drew 0-0 against France.

During their tour to South Africa in 1962, the Lions won 16 of 25 games and drew four times. In the four test matches, they had to admit defeat three times and reached a draw. In 1964 the Welsh national team visited South Africa for the first time. She lost the only test match against the Springboks 3:24, which was the Welsh biggest defeat in 40 years. 1965 was one of the worst in Springbok history. During the five-game European tour in April they managed only one draw; both test matches against Ireland and Scotland were lost. On the longer tour through Australia and New Zealand from June to September they caught each other again, but defeats also resulted in both test matches against the Wallabies and in three of four test matches against the All Blacks. The New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) canceled the return visit planned for 1967, as the South African government still did not tolerate Māori in the ranks of the All Blacks.

In 1968 the Lions won 15 of 16 games against provincial teams on their tour of South Africa, but lost three of the four test matches and drew once. The return visit to the British Isles in 1969 was accompanied by large protest rallies, which is why some games had to be held behind barbed wire fences . The Home Nations regained confidence and the Springboks lost two of their seven games in Wales, against the Newport RFC and a selection team from Gwent . The Welsh national team almost achieved their first victory over South Africa when they drew 6-6. There was another draw of the Springboks against Ireland, as well as defeats against England and Scotland. In order to avoid further cancellations by the New Zealand federation, the government changed its attitude in 1970 and tolerated Māori spectators and players as "honor whites", as it had previously done with the Japanese in South Africa. Australia denied the All Blacks a stopover, so they had to travel via the USA, Greece, Portugal and Nigeria. Several Māori who had traveled with them behaved deliberately provocatively and met repeatedly with blacks, which they deliberately angered the Boers. The Springboks won the four-game test match series with 3-1 wins.

For the 1971 tour of the French to South Africa, the colored player Roger Bourgarel was initially excluded by the selection committee, but then returned to the team after the intervention of Albert Ferrasse , President of the Fédération française de rugby . Danie Craven, a friend of Ferrasse and meanwhile South Africa’s association president, gave his express consent. The two test matches ended in a draw and a victory for the Springboks. Mass protests against apartheid and riots accompanied the Springboks tour to Australia that same year. Strikes forced airlines, hotels, restaurants, post offices and ports to boycott South African people, companies and institutions. The Springboks could only travel through the country with the support of the Royal Australian Air Force and won all three test matches.

The Lions touring South Africa in 1974, led by Willie John McBride , remained undefeated in all 22 games of the tour. They won three out of four test matches and drew once. The Lions coaches noticed that the Springboks dominated their opponents with physical aggression. The Lions began to “repay” the attacks. The idea was that a South African referee would probably not send all the players off the field if they all hit back in a "dirty game". In the third test match in Port Elizabeth, the "battle in the Boet Erasmus Stadium " between the Springboks and the Lions broke out, one of the fiercest brawls in rugby history. During the game JPR Williams sprinted over half the field and attacked his opponent Moaner van Heerden. In 1975 the French visited South Africa again and played eleven games, of which they won six (the Springboks had the upper hand in both test matches). During this tour, Craven organized three games against black and multi-ethnic teams - a " sine qua non " that Ferrasse had called for the French to visit.

Sporty insulation

The Sudamérica XV against the Springboks 1982, El Grafico . The Sudamérica XV were founded in 1980 to avoid the sporting isolation of South Africa
Police outside Eden Park before an All Blacks game during the 1981 Springbok tour
Protest against the Springboks in Hamilton, right activist Tom Newnham (1981)

South Africa was increasingly isolated, which was also expressed in public declarations of will. During the tour to Australia in July and August 1971, the presence of the Springboks generated widespread controversy. There were protests against apartheid in Adelaide , Brisbane , Melbourne , Perth and Sydney . In the course of these demonstrations there were clashes between the participants and the police. It is estimated that between 500 and 700 protesters have been arrested. Although the six-week tour was not canceled, the sports facilities looked like forts with barbed wire barriers and were guarded by a large police force. Johannes Bjelke-Petersen , the Prime Minister of Queensland , declared a month-long state of emergency on July 14 , which resulted in a 24-hour strike by 125,000 workers. The cost of the protective measures taken was given by South Africa at 1.6 million rand .

The New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk had the Springboks tour to New Zealand planned for 1973 canceled because the safety of players and spectators was not guaranteed. The decision also had to do with the fact that he wanted to avoid a threatened boycott of the British Commonwealth Games 1974 in Christchurch by African states. Kirk's successor Robert Muldoon, however, gave his approval for a tour of the All Blacks to South Africa in 1976. When the team left despite violent protests, 16 African states ultimately demanded that New Zealand be excluded from the 1976 Summer Olympics . The International Olympic Committee did not respond because rugby was not an Olympic sport. As a result, a total of 30 countries stayed away from the games in Montreal . The controversial tour of the All Blacks took place against the backdrop of the Soweto uprising against the racist education policy ( Bantu Education Act ) and the apartheid regime, in which at least 176 people were killed. The Olympic boycott turned the world’s focus on apartheid. From a purely sporting point of view, the 24-game tour was moderately successful for the All Blacks: They lost three games against provincial teams and also three of the four test matches against the Springboks.

The signing of the Gleneagles Agreement by 33 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations on June 15, 1977 intensified the sporting isolation of South Africa even more. It provided for the systematic decoupling of the country from the sporting world of the Commonwealth in order to take action against apartheid policy. The agreement also contained sanctions for members who would act against this agreement and the agreement pleaded for the exclusion of demonstrably racist associations in international sport.

The increasingly tough international positions against apartheid also resulted in discussions and changes within South Africa. The South African African Rugby Board , the federation of black rugby teams, changed its name to the South African Rugby Association (SARA) in 1977 . It also decided to drop the team name Leopards because both designations had come under fire as "racist connotations". Cheeky Watson , who previously played for the Springboks, moved to the mixed-demographic South African Rugby Union (SARU), where he became a leading team member in the Cape Province selection. In April 1978, as a result of the international reactions, a meeting of the South African rugby associations took place. SARA (black), SARB (white), SARU and the South African Rugby Federation of Colored were involved in this. One of the results was an agreement that in future games at club, provincial and national level should also take place on open sports fields without demographic segregation . However, SARU President Abdul Abbas said afterwards that he did not want to have any further discussions about such mixed matches until the government had repealed all laws prohibiting or obstructing such events.

In 1979 the French government banned a planned tour of the Springboks, stating that it was "inappropriate" to receive South African teams in France. After the South African team's visa applications were rejected by the French authorities in September 1979, a discussion took place between the foreign ministers of both countries. The South African Foreign Minister then informed the South African Rugby Board (SARB) about the French position, according to which, at least until after the Olympic Games in 1980, a mutual sporting encounter would not be possible. Contrary to the disapproval of the French government, the Fédération française de rugby decided to accept an invitation from the SARB and to organize a tour in South Africa in 1980 and to send a fact-finding mission to South Africa beforehand. This meeting took place in October 1980 amid international protests. After their graduation, the French association president Albert Ferrasse said that he was not yet satisfied with the progress made in lifting the separation in South African rugby.

In 1980 the Springboks hosted the Jaguars , a South American national team. This consisted almost exclusively of Argentine players, as they were not officially allowed to compete as the Argentine national team (called Pumas ). Contrary to the express disapproval of the British and Irish governments, who had no legal control, the Lions toured South Africa a little later. They won all 14 games not scheduled as test matches. However, they lost the first three tests before they could win the fourth. Also in 1980 the Springboks toured Paraguay , Uruguay and Chile . They clearly won all six games, including two test matches against the Jaguars, which were exclusively occupied by Argentines . Due to an entry ban, no games could be played in Argentina itself. On May 30, 1981 Errol Tobias made his debut in a game against Ireland. He was the first non-white player ever to be nominated for the Springboks, but many considered him to be just an " alibi black " (token black) .

Despite the Gleneagles Agreement, the Springboks toured New Zealand in 1981. It consisted of 16 games, including three test matches against the All Blacks. She met criticism long before that. Many condemned it as supporting white rule in South Africa, while others pointed to the strained relations with the Māori in their own country. Muldoon again took the controversial position that politics should not interfere in sport. The games were well attended, but protests were sometimes violent in numerous cities. In Hamilton , 350 demonstrators tore down the barriers, stormed the field and forced the game to be abandoned. A game also had to be canceled in Timaru and street battles broke out several times in Wellington. During the last game in Auckland , a low-flying plane made sacks of flour, leaflets and a banner in honor of Steve Biko were dropped onto the pitch in Eden Park . In view of these circumstances, the sporting result (2: 1 wins for the All Blacks) seems meaningless. On April 8, 1983, the French government banned all sports associations in the country from any contact with South Africa, which, among other things, resulted in the cancellation of the planned tour of the French. In 1984 the English national team undertook a tour to South Africa despite great criticism and political pressure and played seven games there. This was the last tour by a major team to South Africa during the apartheid era. The British government's indifference was one of the reasons why 32 countries boycotted the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in protest .

The High Court , New Zealand's highest court, stopped a planned All Blacks visit to South Africa on June 21, 1985. The judges found that the tour was not in the constitutional interest of the NZRFU to promote the game. There were still supporters of a tour in both countries. In 1986 a privately organized tour of rebel players took place. The team called New Zealand Cavaliers comprised 28 of the 30 All-Blacks players who had wanted to travel to South Africa a year earlier. The Cavaliers played twelve games, including four unofficially classified as Test Match (three of which the Springboks won). The "rebels" were then only suspended for two official test matches of the All Blacks. Both in the first World Cup in 1987 and in the 1991 World Cup , the Springboks were not eligible to participate. 1989 made a World XV called world selection with the tolerance of the International Rugby Board (IRB) a small tour to South Africa. With the exception of New Zealand, all major rugby nations made players available. Again, it was a privately organized tour to circumvent the apartheid boycott.

First world championship title of the "rainbow nation"

On 2 February 1990, the new president of South Africa, announced Frederik Willem de Klerk , profound political changes that the legalization of the African National Congress (ANC), the release of Nelson Mandela , the end of apartheid and the first democratic elections for all South Africans led . In March 1992 the "white" South African Rugby Board and the multi-ethnic South African Rugby Union merged to form the joint association South African Rugby Football Union , which since 2005 has also been called the South African Rugby Union . By the 1990s, the Springboks had a positive record against every team they'd ever played against. However, they were marked by the lack of match practice and initially struggled to keep up with the best teams.

The first game of the Springboks after the resumption of the international sporting operation, later referred to as the "Return Test", took place on August 15, 1992 in Johannesburg against the All Blacks and was lost 24:27. The atmosphere was tense due to the Boipatong massacre two months earlier. The ANC asked for a minute's silence before the start of the game, not to hoist the flag and not to play the national anthem Die Stem van Suid-Afrika . None of the demands were met, whereupon the ANC threatened to renew the boycott of sports. However, the future sports minister Steve Tshwete asked to give fans a second chance and just issue a warning. Over the course of a year, defeats followed at home to Australia and away to France and England. In 1993 the French toured South Africa for the first time in 13 years; they won the series with one win and one draw. The Springboks suffered two more defeats in test matches during their tour of Australia in the same year, but they also scored one victory.

The 1993 tour of the Springboks to South America was unlike the first edition 13 years earlier without any controversy; it came to the first two official test matches against the Argentine Pumas , both of which could be won. Also after a break of 13 years, the Springboks toured New Zealand from June to August 1994. They won ten out of eleven games against provincial teams, while they lost twice and drew once in the three test matches against the All Blacks. This was the worst ever record in New Zealand. In 1994, at the suggestion of the now ruling ANC, the National Sports Council suggested renaming the Springboks Proteas (after the South African national plant ) - as already happened with the national cricket team . The springbok emblem should also be replaced by this very plant in order to leave the conflicting past behind. It was not least due to the personal commitment of the newly elected President Mandela that the name and emblem remained unchanged. He convinced the members of the Sports Council that the symbols burdened by apartheid could be given a new meaning that corresponds to the values ​​of a united South African nation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu , who coined the term "rainbow nation", later followed this opinion. The Sports Council then decided to keep the symbols for the time being in order to avoid any unrest among players and fans before the 1995 World Cup in South Africa (in March 1996 the Sports Council definitely approved the symbols).

The approaching World Cup was the first major sporting event in South Africa since the end of apartheid. In the run-up, after a lot of persuasion by Nelson Mandela, the Springboks were equally supported by whites and blacks and consequently received great support from the population. Although the team was multicultural, Chester Williams was the only non-white player in the squad. Before the World Cup, the Springboks finished ninth in the world rankings and were not among the favorites. In the preliminary round they defeated Australia, Romania and Canada . In the quarter-finals they prevailed against Western Samoa , in the semi-finals just against France. Opponents in the final were the world number one, the All Blacks from New Zealand. The Springboks won against the weakened rivals with 15:12 and thus won the title at their first World Cup participation. The All Blacks seemed very battered by ominous food poisoning the day before. To this day, conspiracy theories are circulating that South African rugby officials or a waitress named "Suzie" mixed a substance into the food of the All Blacks. At the awards ceremony, Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey, presented team captain Francois Pienaar with the Webb Ellis Cup . This gesture is seen as a major step towards reconciliation between the population groups of South Africa and is considered to be one of the most symbolic moments in sports history. The day after the final victory, the isiXhosa word for the Springboks, Amabokoboko! , as the headline on the front page of The Sowetan's sports section .

The first years of the professional era

Bobby Skinstad played for South Africa from 1997 (here against Samoa in 2007)
South Africa versus Georgia during the 2003 World Cup
Throwing in the alley against the All Blacks (Tri Nations 2006)

In August 1995 the IRB decided to open rugby union to professional players in order to counter the increasing enticement of good players by financially strong rugby league clubs. In the same year, the associations of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia founded the SANZAR consortium to sell television broadcasting rights for two new competitions, the international Super 12 league (now Super Rugby ) and the Tri-Nations tournament of the national teams (now The Rugby Championship ) . With the new competitions barely leaving months of overseas tours , this amateur era tradition came to a quick end (with the exception of Lions tours every four years). In sporting terms, the Springboks were hit hard in 1996 by the resignation of undefeated world champion coach Kitch Christie after he was diagnosed with leukemia . The players then struggled both in the Super 12 and in the first edition of Tri Nations . On the last tour through South Africa according to the old tradition, which also took place in 1996, the All Blacks decided the test match series with 2: 1 wins and reciprocated for the World Cup final defeat.

In 1997, coach Andre Markgraaff had to resign after making racist remarks in a telephone conversation and a recording was made public. His successor, Carel du Plessis, also did not last long after the Springboks showed weak conduct during the Lions' 1997 tour of South Africa and the 1997 Tri Nations . He was followed by Nick Mallett , who brought the Springboks back to success. Under him they achieved a record run with 17 victories in a row, which among other things they decided the Tri Nations 1998 for themselves. The Springboks went to the 1999 World Cup as defending champions. In the preliminary round they won against Scotland, Spain and Uruguay , in the quarter-finals against England. They were subject to the eventual world champions from Australia in the semifinals, but then secured third place with a victory over the All Blacks.

After the disappointing Tri Nations 2000 , Mallett accused the association of greed because tickets had been sold at massively inflated prices. The association countered with the allegation that Mallett had discredited the sport. He resigned just before the first disciplinary hearing began. Under the following coaches Harry Viljoen and Rudolph Straeuli, the Springboks seemed to be completely out of place. On November 23, 2002, they suffered their most significant defeat to date when they lost 3:53 to England. In addition, they drew the anger of the hosts with targeted and deliberately brutal attacks on opponents. This game was preceded by record defeats against France and Scotland.

The preparation of the Springboks for the 2003 World Cup made headlines several times. During a training camp in August there was a media-effective verbal argument between the white player Geo Cronjé and the colored player Quinton Davids, whereupon both were expelled from the team. Cronjé then had to answer before a tribunal to find out whether his appearance was racially motivated or not; he was eventually exonerated. In September, the national team came together in a military-style boot camp called "Kamp Staaldraad" (German for barbed wire) in the wilderness near Thabazimbi . When details and video material from the camp became public two months later, the South African rugby supporters reacted with horror because the players there had been treated inhumanely and had suffered degrading harassment. The World Cup itself was disappointing: In the preliminary round, the Springboks won against Uruguay and Georgia , but were clearly defeated by the eventual world champions from England and were eliminated in the quarter-finals against New Zealand.

Straeuli was not only criticized for the poor performance, but also for his role in the "Kamp Staaldraad" scandal. In February 2004, Jake White , who led the U-21 Springboks to the world championship title in 2002, took over as national coach. Under his leadership, the Springboks found their way back to their old form, with some clear victories over Ireland, Wales and the Pacific Islanders . The Tri Nations 2004 ended with the tightest decision in the history of the tournament: All three teams had two wins and two losses, with the Springboks winning the title for the second time since 1998 thanks to the best point difference. Despite two away defeats at the end of the year against England and Ireland, the Springboks had proven that the decline of recent years had been halted and a clear upward trend was recognizable again. They have received numerous awards from the IRB, including “Team of the Year”, Jake White as “Coach of the Year” and the young winger Schalk Burger as “Player of the Year”.

On June 11, 2005, the Springboks managed a record victory over Uruguay, 134: 3 in East London . Tonderai Chavhanga, who was born in Zimbabwe , made six attempts, beating Stefan Terblanche's previous record . The Tri Nations 2005 finished the Springboks in second place. A year later, the Tri Nations 2006 started disappointingly for them when they had to admit defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane 0:49. The fans' request for a "more challenging style of play" was answered by Jake White by putting together a more offensive team. The Springboks ended their streak of five defeats in a row by winning a 21:20 victory over the All Blacks in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium near Rustenburg , which was used for the first time . During the course of the tournament, White told the press that he was unable to nominate some white players for the team "because of the transformation" - a reference to political interference by the ANC government aimed at countering historical imbalances in national sport.

Second world title and the years after

Bryan Habana with the Webb Ellis Cup (2007)
The Springboks against Fiji at the 2011 World Cup
South Africa versus USA at the 2015 World Cup

During the preparations for the World Cup, the Springboks achieved two clear home wins against defending champions England in May and June 2007. The English team could not take all of their players to South Africa, however, as many of them were still playing in the championship for their clubs or were injured. At the beginning of the Tri Nations 2007 , the Springboks defeated the Wallabies and narrowly lost to the All Blacks. Then White changed the squad completely. There were allegations that sending a "B-Team" would lead to a distortion of competition, but this held up quite well despite two defeats.

Before the start of the 2007 World Cup in France, the rested regular line-up of the Springboks was one of the favorites. The South Africans clearly won the group matches against Samoa, England and the USA , while narrowly avoiding a defeat against Tonga . After victories in the quarter and semi-finals against Fiji and Argentina respectively, they faced the English again in the final. In a very defensive game (no team succeeded in an attempt) they prevailed 15: 6, won the world championship title for the second time and were at the top of the world rankings for the first time. Due to its excellent performance at the World Cup, the team received the Laureus Award in the “best team” category.

After White's resignation, Peter de Villiers became the first non-white national coach in January 2008. He nominated ten colored players for his first team, which started the year with two wins against Wales and one against Italy . At Tri Nations 2008 , the Springboks ended a five-year streak of home wins for the All Blacks with a 30:28 win at Dunedin ; it was also the South Africans' first victory over their rivals since 1998. In addition, the Carisbrook Stadium in Dunedin was previously considered an indomitable bastion of the All Blacks, because the Springboks had never managed to win there in seven attempts since 1921. In the same tournament they achieved the highest win against Australia with 53: 8. But since the team lost all other four games, it still had to make do with last place. The year 2009 was more successful. The British and Irish Lions were guests in South Africa on one of their rare tours . The Springboks won two of the three test matches and thus the series for themselves. In a convincing manner, with five wins in six games, they won the Tri Nations 2009 . Despite two defeats against France and Ireland at the End-of-Year Internationals 2009 , the IRB named the Springboks Team of the Year.

At Tri Nations 2010 , the Springboks disappointed with just one win in six games. On November 6th 2010 the Springboks had the honor of being the first guests of the Irish in the newly built Aviva Stadium in Dublin . At the End-of-Year Internationals 2010 , the South Africans tried to achieve a Grand Slam for the first time in five decades. They won against Ireland, Wales and England, but surprisingly failed to Scotland. During the Tri Nations 2011 , de Villiers let some key players pause with a view to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand. If this tactic worked four years earlier, it failed this time. The Springboks won their preliminary round games against Wales, Fiji, Namibia and Samoa, but were just eliminated by Australia in the quarter-finals.

The Springboks, now under the direction of Heyneke Meyer, started 2012 with two wins and one draw against England. With the addition of Argentina, the Tri Nations turned into a rugby championship . In the first edition , the Springboks won only two out of six games and had to concede a draw to the newcomer. The 2012 End-of-year Internationals ended with three narrow wins against Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It continued in June 2013 with three victories over Italy, Scotland and Samoa. The tournament victory at the Rugby Championship 2013 was awarded to the Springboks in the decisive final home game against New Zealand. On the other hand, they successfully made the End-of-year Internationals 2013 with three victories. After successes in the June 2014 internationals against Wales and Scotland, the Springboks seemed to be on track, but suffered losses to Australia and New Zealand during the 2014 Rugby Championship , narrowly missing out on the tournament victory despite four wins. They ended the year with defeats to Ireland and Wales.

With a view to the upcoming World Cup in England in 2015 , the Rugby Championship of the same year was played in a shortened format. South Africa lost all three games and finished last. At the last game of the tournament in Durban something historic happened: surprisingly, the Springboks lost 25:37 against Argentina; it was the Pumas' first victory over the Springboks. Five weeks later, the South Africans didn't seem to have digested their defeat when they faced Japan for the first time in their first World Cup preliminary round match . The outsiders, classified as completely hopeless, caused one of the biggest sensations in rugby history in Brighton and won with 34:32. With wins against Samoa, Scotland and the USA, the Springboks managed to take first place in Group B. After they had prevailed against Wales in the quarter-finals, they narrowly failed in the semifinals at eventual world champions New Zealand. With the victory in the game for third place they returned the favor to the Argentines.

From the low point to the third world title

Victory parade for the Springboks in Johannesburg after the 2019 World Cup victory in Japan

Allister Coetzee was appointed to the head of the national team as the successor to Heyneke Meyer. In June 2016, the Springboks received the Irish national team for three games (two wins and one loss). The subsequent Rugby Championship 2016 they finished with two wins in six games in third place. They suffered the first away defeat against Argentina in Salta and the biggest home defeat against the All Blacks (15:57) in Durban. All three games at the end of the year were lost. This included, completely surprisingly, the first defeat against Italy, which was able to prevail on November 19 in Florence with 20:18. Despite the miserable record, the association stuck to Coetzee. The trust placed in him initially seemed justified, because in June 2017 the Springboks won three wins in a row against France and two wins against Argentina at the start of the 2017 Rugby Championship . In the further course of the tournament, however, they did not know how to convince: On September 16, they suffered a 0:57 away defeat against the All Blacks in North Shore City , the worst result in the team's history. In November there was a 3:38 away defeat against the Irish.

Coetzee's place was replaced by Rassie Erasmus, who had the task of leading the Springboks out of their historic low. In June 2018 they celebrated two wins against England and in the Rugby Championship 2018 they finished second, although the losses suffered in the course of the tournament were rather narrow. At the end of the year the balance sheet was balanced. During the shortened Rugby Championship 2019 , the Springboks scored two wins and one draw, which meant they could win the tournament for the first time; If you take into account the previous tournament Tri Nations, this was the first tournament victory in ten years.

Before the 2019 World Cup , the Springboks were one of the most popular favorites. Although they lost the first group game against New Zealand, they easily qualified for the knockout phase with clear victories over Namibia, Italy and Canada. They defeated hosts Japan in the quarter-finals and Wales in the semi-finals. The final between South Africa and England was the re-edition of the final from 2007, with the Springboks clearly prevailing 32:12 and winning the world title for the third time. This success is remarkable in several ways: In terms of the number of world championship titles, the Springboks drew level with the All Blacks, they are the first world champions to lose in the group phase and with Siya Kolisi , a black captain accepted the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time. During this ceremony, he presented President Cyril Ramaphosa with the jersey that Nelson Mandela had worn at the 1995 World Cup final. World Rugby named the Springboks “Team of the Year”, Rassie Erasmus “Coach of the Year” and winger Pieter-Steph du Toit “Player of the Year”.


Show jumping shirt (2002) sponsored by Castle Lager
Color photo cigarette picture of Paul Roos, captain of the Springboks 1906
Representation of the earlier Springbok logos in the Springbok Museum in Cape Town

South Africa plays in green shirts with a golden yellow collar, white shorts and green socks. The SA Rugby logo is embroidered on the left chest and the Springbok logo on the right chest. The Japanese company Asics has been the kit supplier for all South African rugby teams since Asics signed a contract with SA Rugby in 2013 that runs until at least 2024. The South African mobile operator MTN appears as a sponsor on the jerseys. Other sponsors are FNB above the shirt numbers, as well as Land Rover , FlySafair and Southern Palace around the back hems of the shorts.

The green jersey first appeared during the British Lions Tour to South Africa in 1903. The first two test matches were completed in white jerseys and the last test on Newlands in the green jersey, which the team borrowed from the Old Diocesan Club.

During their first tour of the British Isles in 1906/07, South Africa played in a green jersey with a white collar, blue shorts and blue socks; The team also borrowed this jersey from the Old Diocesan Club. On their tour to Ireland in 2006, the Springboks played in Dublin for the centenary of this first tour in a replica of the historic jersey. When the Australian Wallabies first came to South Africa in 1933, the guests wore sky blue jerseys to avoid confusion, as both teams played in dark green jerseys at the time. The South Africans wore white jerseys during the 1953 Australian tour and the Wallabies wore gold jerseys during their 1961 tour. In 2017, the Springboks played in Argentina in a red jersey. This was part of an Asics campaign during which the Springboks and Blitzboks wore jerseys in all colors of the South African flag - the 15-man team played in green, white and red shirts, while the 7-man team wore gold, blue and black.

The Springboks nickname originated during the 1906/07 tour of the British Isles. The then captain Paul Roos chose the springbok as a logo to prevent the British press from inventing their own nickname for the South Africans. The logo was not only intended for the "white" team at the time - the Springbok logo was used by the first "colored" team in 1939 and by the first "black" team in 1950. After the end of apartheid , a stylized protea blossom was added to the logo in 1992 . After the ANC's victory in the first democratic elections for all South Africans in 1994, the rugby team's nickname, unlike that of the national cricket team, was not changed to "Proteas" at the initiative of then President Nelson Mandela .

In December 2008, the South African Rugby Union decided to redesign the jersey, with the protea moved to the left chest, as with other jerseys of South African national teams, and the springbok on the right chest. The new shirt was first used during the British and Irish Lions Tour in South Africa in 2009. The team mascot is nicknamed Bokkie (Afrikaans for: "little goat ") and is a springbok antelope.

Shirt suppliers and sponsors

Show jumping jersey (2018) in Cape Town with MTN as sponsor

Since the re-admission of South Africa to international sporting events in 1992, the following jersey suppliers and sponsors have appeared:

Period Outfitter sponsor
1992-1996 Cotton Traders Lion camp
1996-1999 Nike No shirt sponsor
2000-2003 Castle warehouse
Mid-year Internationals 2004 Not a kit supplier
Tri Nations 2004 Canterbury
December 2004-2010 Sasol
2011-2013 Absa
2014-2015 Asics
Mid-year Internationals 2016 Blue Label Telecoms
since 2017 MTN

In July 2020, the South African Rugby Union listed the following sponsors and partners on its official website: MTN, Acics, Castle Lager (three times), OUTsurance Holdings, First National Bank , Land Rover , Samsung , Energade , Tsogo Sun , FlySafair , Dove , Microsoft , Springbok Atlas, Bidvest , Virgin Active , Dell EMC , RAM, Gilbert , Accenture, BSN medical, Engen, Vodacom and SuperSport.


The Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria
Location of South African stadiums used for test matches

As in the rugby nations of Argentina, Australia, France and New Zealand, there is no official “national stadium” in South Africa, rather the Springboks play their home games in numerous different places in South Africa. The stadium for the 1995 World Cup final is Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg with a capacity of 60,000. Other frequently used venues for the Springboks are the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria , the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town , the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein , the Kings Park Stadium in Durban and the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth . On August 21, 2010, the Springboks completed their first test match in the FNB Stadium , a game as part of the Tri Nations 2010 against New Zealand. Other stadiums used for test matches are the Buffalo City Stadium in East London , the Royal Bafokeng Stadium near Rustenburg , the Mbombela Stadium in Mbombela and the Witbank Stadium in eMalahleni .

South Africa's first Test Match took place in Port Elizabeth 's St George's Park in 1891 . Ellis Park was inaugurated in 1928 and set a new record with 100,000 spectators during the game between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions in 1955.

The Springboks are said to have an advantage when they play against touring teams on the Highveld. At games in Ellis Park, Loftus Versfeld Stadium or Free State Stadium, their opponents would have to struggle with physical problems because of the height; however, the course of the game is also influenced by other factors; so the ball will keep rolling when kicked. Observers disagree on whether the statistically weaker performances of touring teams are directly related to the altitude above sea level and the resulting physical challenge or whether this is more a consequence of their state of mind.

Test matches

South Africa's position in the world rugby rankings since October 10, 2003

The Springboks have a positive record against almost every team they have played against; only against the New Zealand All Blacks is the record negative. South Africa has won 317 of its 509 test matches , a winning balance of 62.28%. This makes the Springboks one of the most successful national teams internationally. The clearest victory they achieved on July 11, 2005 with 134: 3 against Uruguay, the clearest defeat they suffered on September 16, 2017 with 0:57 against New Zealand.

South Africa's statistics of the test matches against all nations, in alphabetical order, are as follows (as of October 2020):

country Games Won Lost undecided
% Victories
ArgentinaArgentina Argentina 30th 26th 3 1 86.67
AustraliaAustralia Australia 88 48 37 3 54.55
Barbarians 8th 3 4th 1 37.50
British and Irish Lions British and Irish Lions 46 23 17th 6th 50
EnglandEngland England 43 26th 15th 2 60.47
FijiFiji Fiji 3 3 0 0 100
FranceFrance France 44 27 11 6th 61.36
GeorgiaGeorgia Georgia 1 1 0 0 100
IrelandIreland Ireland 26th 18th 7th 1 69.23
ItalyItaly Italy 15th 14th 1 0 93.33
JapanJapan Japan 3 2 1 0 66.67
CanadaCanada Canada 3 3 0 0 100
NamibiaNamibia Namibia 3 3 0 0 100
New ZealandNew Zealand New Zealand 99 36 59 4th 36.36
Pacific Islanders Pacific Islanders 1 1 0 0 100
RomaniaRomania Romania 1 1 0 0 100
SamoaSamoa Samoa 9 9 0 0 100
ScotlandScotland Scotland 27 22nd 5 0 81.48
Sudamérica XV 8th 7th 1 0 87.50
SpainSpain Spain 1 1 0 0 100
TongaTonga Tonga 2 2 0 0 100
United StatesUnited States United States 4th 4th 0 0 100
UruguayUruguay Uruguay 3 3 0 0 100
Wales Wales 36 29 6th 1 80.56
World XV 5 5 0 0 100
total 509 317 167 25th 62.28

Not included are games against various national teams as part of the overseas tours of the amateur era and the encounters with the New Zealand Cavaliers that are not officially recognized by New Zealand Rugby . Encounters with the New South Wales Waratahs (1920–1928) are also not recognized by the South African Rugby Union as test matches.

Rivalry with the All Blacks

The test match of the All Blacks against the Springboks in Auckland in 1981 took place behind barbed wire and was accompanied by protests

Since they first met in New Zealand in 1921, there has been a great rivalry between the Springboks and the All Blacks, considered to be the top two rugby union national teams in the world. Even then, both teams were considered the best in the world, which was confirmed by the undecided outcome of the first series of tests. The second series of tests during the return visit to South Africa in 1928 again ended evenly. In 1937 the Springboks in New Zealand won the series against the All Blacks. In 1949 the South Africans won the home series against the All Blacks with a negative record for the New Zealanders that still exists today. In 1956, however, the All Blacks won the home series against the Springboks. In 1960 the Springboks were successful again during the home series against the All Blacks, but the tour was remembered more because of their political squabbles than because of the successes. After that, the mutual tours were mainly influenced by the South African apartheid policy and the tug-of-war for New Zealand Māori players in the All Blacks' team against the Springboks. Mutual tours were undertaken until the 1980s, but they met with strong political resistance from opponents of apartheid and were consequently accompanied by protests from other countries. The New Zealand government's adherence to the tour to South Africa in 1976 and the refusal of the International Olympic Committee (rugby was not an Olympic sport at the time) to exclude New Zealand from the 1976 Summer Olympics after protests by African states even led to the boycott of the games by 30 predominantly African ones States.

Only with the end of apartheid did normality return to mutual rivalry. To date, the Springboks' balance sheet is only negative against the All Blacks. The rivalry has since expanded to include the world championships, as both the All Blacks and the Springboks are the only three-time world champions to date (at nine world championships in total). Both national teams have met five times at world championships, with the All Blacks winning three games and the Springboks two. The most important victory for the South Africans was the 1995 World Cup final, when they won 15:12 in extra time. Since 1996, both teams have met at the annual Tri Nations and Rugby Championship. During the Rugby Championship 2017 , the All Blacks inflicted their biggest loss on the Springboks so far: 0:57.

Due to the history of the Springboks, some South Africans still support the All Blacks instead of the Springboks, even for generations. This has its origins in apartheid, when its opponents supported the opposing team as a gesture of resistance against apartheid and its symbols. Other South Africans criticized this as “unpatriotic” and “treason” after the end of apartheid.


World championships

South Africa received the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995, 2007 and 2019

Although the Springboks missed the first two world championships due to apartheid in South Africa, they have received the Webb Ellis Cup , the trophy of the four-year world championship , three times so far: the third in 1995 in their own country, in France in 2007 and in Japan in 2019 . This makes the Springboks the second national rugby team to win the title three times. In 1999 and 2015 they lost the semi-finals, but then won the game for third place. In 2003 and 2011 they were eliminated in the quarter-finals, their worst performance so far.

Tri Nations / Rugby Championship

The only annual tournament of the Springboks is the Rugby Championship against New Zealand , Australia and Argentina , which has been held since 2012 (previously the Tri Nations against the first two teams mentioned since 1996 ). The South Africans have won four tournaments so far (1998, 2004, 2009, 2019). As part of the Rugby Championship, the Springboks play against Australia for the Mandela Challenge Plate (since 2000) and against New Zealand for the Freedom Cup (since 2004).

Team statistics at the Tri Nations (1996 to 2011)
country Games Victories Unent. Ndlg. Game
Diff. Bonus
New Zealand New Zealand 72 50 0 22nd     1936: 1395     + 541 32 232 10
Australia Australia 72 29 1 42     1531: 1721     - 190 34 152 03
South Africa South Africa 72 28 1 43     1480: 1831     - 351 24 138 03

Team statistics at the Rugby Championship (since 2012)
country Games Victories Unent. Ndlg. Game
Diff. Bonus
New Zealand New Zealand 42 36 2 4th 1423: 751 + 672 26th 174 06th
South Africa South Africa 42 19th 4th 19th 1048: 974 + 74 19th 103 01
Australia Australia 42 19th 3 20th 952: 1088 - 136 9 91 01
Argentina Argentina 42 5 1 36 766: 1376 - 610 11 33 00

The points are calculated as follows: 4 points for a win, 2 points for a tie, 0 points for a defeat (before possible bonus points), 1 bonus point for four or more successful attempts , 1 bonus point for a defeat with less than seven points difference .

More test matches

During the amateur era, the Springboks toured abroad for months to compete against other national teams as well as against regional selections and club teams. They have also hosted national teams touring South Africa. South Africa managed a Grand Slam four times, i.e. one victory each against the Home Nations England , Ireland , Scotland and Wales during the same tour (this applies to the tours of 1912/13, 1931/32, 1951/52 and 1960/61). The tours according to old tradition came to a standstill around the year 2000. Today there are two time slots available every year for test matches against teams from the northern hemisphere. At the Mid-year Internationals in June teams from Europe come to South Africa, at the End-of-year Internationals in November the South Africans come to Europe. The Springboks have been playing against Wales for the Prince William Cup since 2007 .


Current squad

The following players make up the squad during the 2019 World Cup :

Back line (backs)

player position team Test matches
Faf de Klerk Half of the crowd Sale Sharks 24
Herschel Jantjies Half of the crowd Stormers 3
Cobus Reinach Half of the crowd Northampton Saints 12th
Elton Jantjies Interconnects Lions 35
Handre Pollard Interconnects Bulls 41
Lukhanyo Am Inner three-quarters Sharks 8th
Damian de Allende Inner three-quarters Stormers 39
Jesse Kriel Inner three-quarters Bulls 44
François Steyn Inner three-quarters Montpellier Hérault RC 60
Cheslin Kolbe Outer three quarters Stade Toulousain 9
Macazole Mapimpi Outer three quarters Sharks 7th
Sbu Nkosi Outer three quarters Sharks 8th
Warrick Gelant Goalkeeper Bulls 7th
Willie le Roux Goalkeeper Toyota Verblitz 55

Striker (forwards)

player position team Test matches
Steven Kitshoff pier Stormers 39
Vincent Koch pier Saracens 15th
Frans Malherbe pier Stormers 31
Tendai Mtawarira pier Sharks 110
Trevor Nyakane pier Bulls 40
Schalk Brits hooker Bulls 13th
Malcolm Marx hooker Lions 26th
Bongi Mbonambi hooker Stormers 29
Lood de Jager Second row striker Bulls 40
Etzebeth Second row striker Stormers 78
Franco Mostert Second row striker Gloucester RFC 31
RG Snyman Second row striker Bulls 15th
Pieter-Steph du Toit Winger Stormers 49
Siya Kolisi captain Winger Stormers 42
Francois Louw Winger Bath rugby 68
Kwagga Smith Winger Lions 4th
Duane Vermeulen Number eight Bulls 48

Known players

Barry Heatlie
Naas Botha (1987)
John Smit (2007)

Twelve former South African players were inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame for their outstanding achievements :

player position admission
Naas Botha Connection half 2015
Danie Craven Half of the crowd 2007
Morné du Plessis Number eight 2015
Frik you Preez Second row striker , winger 2009
Os you edge pier 2019
Danie Gerber Inner three-quarters 2015
Barry Heatlie Second row striker 2009
Hennie Muller Number eight 2015
Bennie Osler Connection half 2009
Francois Pienaar Winger 2011
John Smit Hakler , pillar 2009
Joost van der Westhuizen Half of the crowd 2015

Also inducted into the Hall of Fame were world coaches Kitch Christie and Jake White, and President Nelson Mandela (for his influence on the sport). Two players are two-time world champions: Os du Randt (1995 and 2007) and François Steyn (2007 and 2019). World Rugby awarded three Springboks Player of the Year: Schalk Burger (2004), Bryan Habana (2007) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (2019).

Choice of players

For decades, rugby union was a sport for amateurs , which is why the players practiced a job on the side and could only benefit financially from their skills if they switched to rugby league clubs and thus automatically lost their eligibility to play rugby union. This situation changed in 1995 with the change from rugby union to professional sport . As a result, many South African players moved to Europe, as they were able to conclude more lucrative contracts there than in their home country. Several well-known Springboks played abroad, including Naas Botha (Italy), Francois Pienaar (England), Percy Montgomery (Wales and France), Stefan Terblanche (Wales), Butch James (England), Victor Matfield (France) and John Smit (France) ). The association responded by not considering any players under contract abroad for the national team for years. Accordingly, national coach Jake White made headlines in 2004 when he called on two players outside of South Africa for the first time, Percy Montgomery and Jaco van der Westhuyzen .

In the face of continuing departures to Europe and increasingly to Japan , there was a risk of permanent loss of talented players, especially since, according to the rules of World Rugby, a three-year uninterrupted residence abroad is sufficient to be eligible to play for the national team of another country (from the end of 2020 it will be five years). Since July 1, 2017, the South African Rugby Union has only allowed those South African national players who have already completed more than 30 test matches for their country to switch to a foreign club.

Player statistics

Victor Matfield (2006)
Bryan Habana (2006)
Morné Steyn (2010)

Below are the main stats pertaining to South African players. The players marked with * are still active and can continue to improve.

(As of October 2020)

Most national team games
rank Surname Period Games
01 Victor Matfield 2001-2015 127
02 Bryan Habana 2004-2016 124
03 Tendai Mtawarira 2008-2019 117
04th John Smit 2000-2011 111
05 Jean de Villiers 2002-2015 109
06th Percy Montgomery 1997-2008 102
07th Joost van der Westhuizen 1993-2003 089
08th Ruan Pienaar 2006-2015 088
09 Schalk Burger 2003-2015 086
10 Bakkies Botha 2002-2014 085
Most games as captain
rank Surname Period Games
01 John Smit 2003-2011 83
02 Jean de Villiers 2012-2015 37
03 Gary Teichmann 1995-1999 36
04th Francois Pienaar 1993-1996 29
05 Victor Matfield 2007-2015 27
06th Like de Villiers 1965-1970 22nd
07th Siya Kolisi * 2018-2019 20th
08th Corné Krige 1999-2003 18th
09 André Vos 1999-2001 16
10 Morné du Plessis 1975-1980 15th
Most points scored
rank Surname Period Points
01 Percy Montgomery 1997-2008 893
02 Morné Steyn 2009-2016 736
03 Handre Pollard * 2014-2019 457
04th Bryan Habana 2004-2016 335
05 Naas Botha 1980-1992 312
06th Elton Jantjies * 2012-2019 281
07th Joel Stransky 1993-1996 240
08th Braam van Straaten 1999-2001 221
09 Joost van der Westhuizen 1993-2003 190
10 Jannie de Beer 1997-1999 181
Most attempts made
rank Surname Period tries
01 Bryan Habana 2004-2016 67
02 Joost van der Westhuizen 1993-2003 38
03 Jaque Fourie 2003-2013 32
04th Jean de Villiers 2012-2015 27
05 Breyton Paulse 1999-2007 26th
06th Percy Montgomery 1997-2008 25th
07th JP Pietersen 2006-2016 24
08th Pieter Rossouw 1997-2003 21st
09 James Small 1992-1997 20th
10 Danie Gerber 1980-1992 19th


Danie Craven (1956)
National coach Jake White with the 2007 William Webb Ellis Cup in Cape Town's Newlands Stadium
Peter de Villiers (2011)

Since the definition and role of coaches varied greatly until the All Blacks' visit in 1949, the following table only includes coaches who have been employed since then.

Surname Years Wins in%
Danie Craven 1949-1956 74%
Basil Kenyon 1958 0%
Hennie Muller 1960–1961, 1963, 1965 44%
Boy Louw 1960–1961, 1965 67%
Izak van Heerden 1962 75%
Felix du Plessis 1964 100%
Ian Kirkpatrick 1967, 1974 60%
Avril Malan 1969-1970 50%
Johan Claassen 1964, 1970-1974 50%
Nelie Smith 980-1981 80%
Cecil Moss 1982-1989 83%
John Williams 1992 20%
Ian McIntosh 1993-1994 33%
Kitch Christie 1994-1996 100%
Andre Markgraaff 1996 61%
Carel du Plessis 1997 37%
Nick Mallett 1997-2000 71%
Harry Viljoen 2000-2002 53%
Rudolph Straeuli 2002-2003 52%
Jake White 2004-2007 67%
Peter de Villiers 2008-2011 62%
Heyneke Meyer 2012-2015 67%
Allister Coetzee 2016-2018 47%
Rassie Erasmus 2018-2019 63%
Jacques Nienaber since 2020


The Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport voted the South African national team 2007 “ World Team of the Year ”. The International Rugby Board, since 2014 World Rugby, has named South Africa “Team of the Year” four times (2004, 2007, 2009 and 2019). The Springboks were also named “ Team of the Year ” twice at the Laureus World Sports Awards (2008 and 2020).

Cultural influence


The Springboks play a central role in the 2009 US film Invictus . The film, based on the book Playing the Enemy by John Carlin , describes how the then President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, used the World Cup to politically defend the nation , which had been divided by apartheid just before, with the support of the South African national team, the Springboks operated division of society away to one. The director of the film led Clint Eastwood , starring are Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as a team captain Francois Pienaar to see.

The South African film Modder en Bloed (German: "Mud and Blood"), which appeared there in 2016, addresses the beginnings of rugby in the prisoner-of-war camp on the British island of St. Helena during the Second Boer War. The South African musician and actor Bok van Blerk can be seen in the role of the Boer commander Gideon Scheepers . The protagonist Willem Morkel is based on the rugby player Sommie Morkel , who played four games for South Africa in 1906.


Since the success at the 1995 World Cup, the national team has been accompanied by the traditional workers' song Shosholoza . Among other things, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Gospel Choir recorded the song in support of the Springboks.

Here com die Bokke by Leon Schuster is another popular song that is sung by fans in support of the Springboks. It also became popular during the 1995 World Cup and has been with the national team ever since.


  • Grant Harding, David Williams: The Toughest of Them All: New Zealand and South Africa: The Struggle for Rugby Supremacy . Penguin Books, Auckland 2000, ISBN 0-14-029577-1 .
  • Bob Howitt: SANZAR Saga - Ten Years of Super 12 and Tri-Nations Rugby . Harper Collins Publishers, 2005, ISBN 1-86950-566-2 .
  • John Nauright: Sport, Cultures, and Identities in South Africa . Ed .: Continuum International Publishing Group. 1997, ISBN 0-7185-0072-5 .
  • AC Parker: The Springboks, 1891-1970 . Cassell & Company Ltd., London 1970, ISBN 0-304-93591-3 .
  • Henri Garcia: La fabuleuse histoire du rugby . Éditions de La Martinière, Paris 2011, ISBN 978-2-7324-4528-1 .

Web links

Commons : South African National Rugby Union Team  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

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This article was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 8, 2020 in this version .