- Ask Steven
The early SpringboksJohn GriffithsAugust 9, 2014
Do you know if any player on the 1937 Springbok tour of Australia & New Zealand kept a diary? I am trying to discover full details of the tour? A van Wyk, England
By 1937 New Zealand/South Africa series were already recognised as one of rugby union's greatest rivalries.
The sides first met in 1921, sharing a three-match series 1-1 with a scoreless draw at Wellington in the Final Test. Seven years later, New Zealand visited South Africa for the first time and again the series was shared, each side winning two Tests in an absorbing rubber that came down to a battle royale between two distinct pack formations: the old 2-3-2 diamond scrummage of the All Blacks against the developing 3-4-1 pack preferred by the Springboks.
The 1937 series was viewed as a "battle for the world crown." New Zealand took the early honours, winning 13-7 at Wellington in the first Test of a three-match series. The Springboks adopted the unusual tactic of dropping their captain, Phil Nel, for that match and played their famous scrum-half, Danie Craven, out of position at stand-off.
Nel, a veteran of the 1928 Tests, returned as skipper and Craven reverted to his usual place at the base of the scrum for the remaining Tests, South Africa winning 13-6 in Christchurch before taking the series with a clear 17-6 victory at Eden Park, Auckland, where they scrummaged the All Blacks into submission.
To the best of knowledge there was no tour diary ever published, but there was a tour book written by John E Sacks, the sports editor of the Rand Daily Mail and Johannesburg Sunday Times , who accompanied the Springboks as special correspondent.
The book, which runs to 208 pages, has an introduction by the South African captain and covers in detail the entire tour of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the trial matches that took place before the team was selected.
Entitled South Africa's Greatest Springboks: Complete Story of the Historic 1937 Tour , the book was published in Wellington (NZ) by Sporting Publications and edited by the well-known New Zealand experts Arthur Swan, Read Masters and Arthur Carman.
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.