Ask John
Morné Steyn's goal-kicking record, Tri-Nations clean-sweeps, Scottish captains and Shane Sullivan
John Griffiths
September 13, 2010

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

In this edition John answers questions on Morné Steyn's goal-kicking record, Tri-Nations clean-sweeps, Scottish captains and Shane Sullivan.

How many successive successful goal-kicks has Morné Steyn made this season, and is it a record? André, South Africa

Since missing the conversion of Francois Louw's try in the first-half of the South Africa v Italy Test at Witbank on June 19, 2010, the Springbok fly-half has made 38 consecutive successful goal kicks spanning eight Tests. He remains "not out" so there is every chance that he will extend the run during the autumn internationals in Britain and Ireland.

Although success rates of goal-kickers weren't logged until the late 1980s, it seems highly likely that Steyn is sitting on a world record. The previous best was Chris Paterson's run of 36 successive successful goal kicks for Scotland. His run ended against Argentina in Rosario on June 7, 2008, when he missed a penalty attempt shortly before half-time.

I read that New Zealand's clean sweep of this year's Tri-Nations was only the fifth such "Grand Slam." Please give details of the previous successes? Graham, England

The Tri-Nations tournament was launched in 1996 so has now completed 15 seasons. New Zealand have dominated the competition and this season carried off their tenth title. South Africa have won three titles and Australia two.

In most seasons the sides played each other on a home and away basis, making four matches for each nation, but since 2006 the fixture list has been extended to give each nation six games. (The exception was World Cup year in 2007 when the Tri-Nations reverted to its original format. Next year the original four-match format will return in a World Cup year, while plans are in train to extend the tournament to a Four-Nations competition by admitting Argentina from 2012).

New Zealand's clean sweep this year was the first time that a country had achieved a six-match "Grand Slam" in the Tri-Nations. The other "Slams" were in 1996 (New Zealand), 1997 (New Zealand), 1998 (South Africa) and 2003 (New Zealand).

Gwyn Evans passed away aged 92 last week. Who is the current senior surviving Welsh international?S Jones, Wales

Gwyn Evans, a retired Cardiff City Police officer, passed away on Monday September 6. He played openside flanker in the first dozen official Welsh international matches after World War Two and scored a try on his debut against England at Cardiff in January 1947. He lost his place in the Welsh side to Clem Thomas against France in Paris in 1949.

The senior surviving Welsh international is now Dr. Jack Matthews who was 90 in June. Dr. Jack was a hard-running, crash-tackling threequarter who made 17 appearances for Wales between 1947 and 1951 and was a British & Irish Lion in New Zealand and Australia in 1950. Like Gwyn Evans, he played his club rugby with the crack Cardiff side that enjoyed a long period of success in the immediate post-war seasons.

Matthews was very nearly capped by Wales from Bridgend County School in January 1939. He played in the second-half of the final Welsh trial at Swansea on January 7 that year and "Old Stager", the rugby correspondent of the Western Mail, noted: "His three runs were as delightful as anything done by any centre, and Wooller [his opponent] will doubtless pay tribute to his tackling. No harm will be done by seeing more of Matthews."

The Welsh selectors must have agreed for they asked the Glamorgan selectors to include the 18-year-old in the centre for their county game against Monmouthshire the following Thursday - an additional trial in all but name. The schoolboy played alongside the Oxford South-African, Mickie Davies, and while Glamorgan won 21-5, neither Matthews nor Davies was picked to appear at Twickenham against England.

I have contacted the site to suggest that the Glossary entry be changed from 'No Time' to 'No Side'. Ron Grainger, Australia

I entirely agree. To the best of my knowledge I have never formally heard of the expression 'No Time', though it's true that many players and esteemed colleagues are unfamiliar with the term 'No Side' which dates back to the early days of the game.

The expression was enshrined in the laws of the game by the end of the 1880s when Law 50, for instance, stated: "Neither half-time nor no side shall be called until the ball is fairly held or goes out of play. In the case of a try or fair catch the kick at the goal only shall be made."

This particular law continues of course and is the distinct difference between soccer and rugby's conventions on ending games. A rugby match cannot finish until the ball is out of play. In soccer, time can be called with the ball in play. The origin of the expression 'No Side' is related to this point.

When a breakdown in play occurred in the early days of the game it was common for players to ask which side would have possession to restart the game. If the match umpire (later referee) answered 'No Side', it denoted that time was up.

Who captained Scotland 16 times and won 37 caps? Philip, England

The only man who captained Scotland 16 times and won 37 caps in all was Rob Wainwright. He played for Scotland between 1992 and 1998 and led the side from 1995 until 1998. He was a much-travelled club player, representing Scotland from the Edinburgh Academicals, West Hartlepool, Watsonians, Army and Dundee HSFP.

The player who held the Scottish captaincy record the longest was the legendary Mark Morrison, a Royal High School former pupil who led the side 15 times as a forward between 1899 and 1904 and was skipper of the 1903 British & Irish side to South Africa. He held the record until Ian "Mighty Mouse" McLauchlan overtook him in the 1970s.

The leading Scottish captains to date have been:

D M B Sole - 25 Tests - 1989 to 1992
B W Redpath - 21 Tests - 1998 to 2003
A G Hastings - 20 Tests - 1993 to 1995
J McLauchlan - 19 Tests - 1973 to 1979
J P R White - 19 Tests - 2005 to 2008
R I Wainwright - 16 Tests - 1995 to 1998
M C Morrison - 15 Tests - 1899 to 1904
A R Smith - 15 Tests - 1957 to 1962
A R Irvine - 15 Tests - 1980 to 1982

Could you please give me any info on Brisbane Brothers former prop Shane Sullivan? Brothers RFC, Australia

Shane Stephen Sullivan was a surprise choice as prop for the 30-man 1969 Wallabies tour squad in South Africa. Roy Prosser, Jim Roxburgh and John Howard were the automatic propping choices for the tour. Sullivan pipped his state colleague Alec Evans (later a well-known coach in both Australia and Wales) to the fourth prop place after appearing in the Queensland-New South Wales game on the eve of the tour party announcement. It was said at the time that Evans was considered "too rough" to take on tour.

Sullivan had scored a try in the state game to help Queensland to an 11-6 lead. Even though the Waratahs came back to win 17-11, Sullivan together with five others from the Brothers club went on the tour. He made eleven appearances for the Wallabies but never made the Test team.

He celebrated his 24th birthday on the Sunday following the Cape Town Test. A popular member of the squad and an excellent tourist, he took to wearing dark shades everywhere he went which prompted team-mates to nickname him "King Farouk." He weighed in at 16st and stood 6ft tall.

Sullivan played only two seasons for Queensland having made his debut on the visit to New South Wales in 1968. He gave up serious rugby soon after returning from the South African tour and moved to Toowoomba to concentrate on a medical career.


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