South Africa national rugby union team

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The Springboks or Bokke are the South African national rugby union team.

Rugby was first played in South Africa in 1878 by Hamilton club in Cape Town. The first ever British Lions tour took place in 1891 with the trip financially underwritten by Cecil Rhodes, there were also tours in 1896 and 1903. Rugby was well suited to the lifestyle of the Afrikaners and it became so popular that in 1902 there was a temporary ceasefire in the Boer War so that a rugby game could be played between British and Boer forces.

The first tour of Britain took place in 1906/7 when the famous green shirts and the name Springbok were adopted. The Springboks and the All Blacks started a famous rivalry and dominance of the game swung between New Zealand to South Africa. Until the 1990s, they had a positive win record against every nation they played. Due to the government's policy of apartheid, and insistence that touring teams only contain white players, they were excluded from international rugby, with their last tour before readmittance being the infamous 1981 tour of New Zealand, which saw that country divided in two, and was racked by demonstrations.

The Springboks were readmitted to international rugby after the demise of apartheid, and initially struggled to return to their previous high standards. However, by the time they hosted the 1995 World Cup, they were one of the favourites, winning an epic final against New Zealand 15-12. In 1998, under coach Nick Mallett, they went on a record winning streak, winning 17 consecutive tests, including the 1998 Tri Nations Series, before an exhausted team lost to England at the end of a long tour. Since then, the team fell upon hard times for several years, regularly finishing last in the Tri Nations. 2002/3 was their worst ever season, seeing them lose by record margins to France, England, Scotland and New Zealand, defeating Argentina by only one point, and being easily dispatched in the quarter finals of the 2003 World Cup.

The buildup to the Boks' 2003 World Cup campaign was tumultuous. During a pre-World Cup training camp, there was a highly publicized dispute between Geo Cronjé (an Afrikaner) and Quinton Davids (a coloured). Both were dropped from the team, and Cronjé was called before a tribunal to answer charges that his actions in the dispute were racially motivated. (Cronjé was eventually cleared.) Later, the Boks were sent to a military-style boot camp in the South African bush called Kamp Staaldraad (literal English translation "Camp Steel-wire", idiomatically "Camp Barbed Wire"). When details of the events at Kamp Staaldraad leaked, most South African rugby supporters reacted in outrage.

After the World Cup debacle, Boks coach Rudolf Straeuli was under fire, not only because of the team's poor results, but because of his role in organizing Kamp Staaldraad. He eventually resigned, as did Rian Oberholzer, the managing director of South Africa Rugby (Pty) Ltd, the commercial arm of the South Africa Rugby Football Union. Soon afterwards, SARFU president Silas Nkununu, facing a strong reelection challenge, withdrew from consideration for election. New president Brian van Rooyen has overhauled the South African rugby organization, though not without some controversy.

In February 2004, Jake White was named as the Boks' new coach. He had previously coached the Springboks under-21 side, which won the inaugural U21 Rugby World Cup in 2002 under his direction.

The Boks then proceeded to prove to the rugby world that they were ready to return to past greatness, starting with a sweep of Ireland in a two-Test series and a win over Wales during their opponents' June 2004 tours of the Southern Hemisphere. Next came a pulsating win in the most closely-contested Tri Nations Series in history, discussed in more detail below. In November 2004, they went on an ambitious "Grand Slam" tour of the Home Nations. The Boks lost decisively to England, lost a controversial decision to Ireland, won a hard-fought match with Wales, and won comfortably over Scotland. While the tour did not live up to the Boks' original aspirations, it nonetheless proved that the Boks had awakened from their slumber of the past few years.

Their resurgence was honored at the end of their tour with a sweep of the major IRB awards. The Boks were named IRB World Team of the Year, White was named IRB World Coach of the Year, and young flanker Schalk Burger was named IRB World Player of the Year.

Tri-Nations 2004

South Africa continued to nurture and develop its rich vein of talent during the Tri-Nations, a competition in which South Africa had not been competitive in three years. However, things were to be different this time as the Boks ploughed their way into the opposition, most notably with a herculean backline display that gave South Africa 10 of its glut of 13 tries in four Tri-Nations matches, as opposed to the All Blacks' much vaunted and feared backline's display of 4 in four games. South Africa's improved displays made for the tightest competition so far in the history of the Tri-Nations.

The Boks opener against the All Blacks was a thriller with Boks 'Rush' defence rattling the kiwis 'flat' attack to its core. After 80 minutes the Boks were ahead before a thrilling attack from the All Blacks claimed a last second try to win the game, courtesy of Doug Howlett. However, the Boks could take a lot out of this game and apprached the Wallabies with a spring in their step. The Wallabies too caused South Africa heartache as ex South African under 21's captain Clyde Rathbone snatched the winner for the Aussies with minutes to go. The Boks defeat was partly due to their loss of Victor Matfield. The lanky lock's absence providing the Wallabies with an excellent chance to target South Africa's lineouts, as they did so they caused South Africa problems in this area. Or should I say, the South Africans caused themselves problems in this area. However, good win for the Wallabies.

As the series shifted to South Africa, the Boks needed to beat the All Blacks in order to keep their hopes of a Tri-Nations title, a first since 1998, alive. They did so with vigour as they brushed aside the All Blacks with disdain, providing the authoritative finishing and poise which was lacking to a degree in the first game between the Southern rivals. The only area of the game in which New Zealand competed well was the scoreboard. After going 10-0 down early on South Africa went into the second half ahead, again. However, unlike the first game South Africa provided what they sought out to do with a strong second half display, as they pulled away from the All Blacks, 5 tries to 2. Bok centre Marius Joubert equalled an SA record for the most tries against the All Blacks in the process with a hat trick of tries.

This set up a winner-take-all battle against the Wallabies in Durban. The Boks fell behind 7-3 in a tightly played first half. In the second, they scored tries from forwards Victor Matfield and Joe van Niekerk. While the Wallabies got more tries (three), the difference proved to be the boot of fullback Percy Montgomery, who converted both Boks tries and kicked three penalties to give the Boks a 23-19 win and the Tri-Nations trophy. While the Boks had many heroes in their run through the Tri-Nations, perhaps the greatest was Schalk Burger, who more than lived up to his enormous promise and established himself as arguably the top flanker in the world.

Famous players

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Past

Present

See also

External links

Template:SANZAR links fr:Équipe d'Afrique du Sud de rugby à XV it:Nazionale di rugby sudafricana