Ask John
The Lions tour that never was, Cecil Afrika's Sevens' career and Shane Williams' try-scoring rate
John Griffiths
December 5, 2011

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 Griffiths looks at the British & Irish Lions tour that never was, Cecil Afrika's Sevens' career, Shane Williams' try-scoring rate and interim coaches.

Can you provide the tour itinerary for the cancelled 1986 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa?Nigel, Ireland

None was ever officially announced. The visit certainly featured on the calendar of tours for the 1980s, but in those days the Lions could not play overseas until the Four Home Unions Tours Committee received an official invitation from the host Union. The custom at the time was for the itinerary to be announced when the invitation was made and accepted.

In 1985, an invitation for a tour of South Africa by New Zealand had been issued by the then South African Rugby Board (SARB). It was accepted by the NZRFU whereupon an itinerary was drawn up. Indeed, the New Zealand tour party was actually selected before, at the eleventh hour, the visit was cancelled as a result of proceedings in the New Zealand courts. That action immediately called into question the possibility of a Lions tour to South Africa in 1986.

In the early months of the 1985-6 British/Irish domestic season there was much discussion about the tour. Edinburgh was due to host the 1986 Commonwealth Games. Had the Lions signalled their intention to fulfil their commitment, it was feared that there would be a mass boycott of the Games. In South Africa, moreover, a state of emergency was in operation.

A month before Christmas 1985 Dr Danie Craven, the President of the SARB, removed the need for any tricky decision-making by announcing that his Board were "postponing" their invitation to the Lions to undertake a tour.

So the visit was effectively cancelled at six-months' notice, hence the absence of a tour itinerary. South Africa had to wait another six years, until 1992 and the end of the anti-apartheid era, before taking part in another Test against a member nation of the International Board, and the Lions did not return until 1997.

Footnote: A Lions squad, managed by Clive Rowlands (Wales), coached by Mick Doyle (Ireland) and led by Colin Deans (Scotland), was selected by the Four Home Unions Committee in the spring of 1986. They played in a special representative match against the Rest of the World at Cardiff to mark the centenary of the International Rugby Board.

I was interested to see a programme for the match between Kent and the Maoris in 1911 was recently sold at auction. I can find no reference in New Zealand to an official Maori side visiting England that year - do you have any details of results etc? Geoff, New Zealand

You might have had a lucky escape with that 1911 "Maori" programme.

The programme is genuine enough and in appearance and style has the format of the England home rugby internationals staged at Richmond, Blackheath and Twickenham in the 1890s, 1900s and up to the Great War. But the team was "Maori" only in name. It was not representative.

The "tourists" were no more than a subset of the Maori performing troupe (a choir/concert party led by Maggie Papakura) which came to London from New Zealand via Sydney in 1911. They appeared at the Festival of Empire staged at London's White City as part of the Coronation Exhibition.

Reports suggest that they ran into financial difficulties during the visit. The men in the party were encouraged to form a rugby team - never a difficult proposition for New Zealanders - and they played a few games in the London area, possibly to raise funds for the troupe's coffers from a share of the gate-money.

The players involved certainly had no connection with the representative Maori sides which, under the management of W T Parata, played their first official matches on a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1910. Parata led further parties on local New Zealand tours in the seasons leading up to the War.

It's also true that Parata lobbied the NZRFU for permission to ask the RFU to accept a tour to England by the Maoris for 1912-13, but he had to wait until 1926 before this particular wish was granted by the English authorities. The NZRFU, it was thought, were afraid that permission for a Maori tour to the UK might compromise plans for another full All Blacks tour to Europe.

Anyway, the "Maori" in England in 1911 played three recognised games in the London area. County matches in the Home Counties in those days were always played mid-week:

Thursday November 9 - lost - 3-33 v Kent (Blackheath)
Wednesday November 15 - lost - 5-23 v Middlesex (Richmond)
Saturday November 18- lost - 0-13 v London Welsh (Wandsworth)

In the Middlesex match a newspaper reported: "Kereti made the opening for Tonihi to score. The place-kick was from a difficult angle, but Paora was successful."

The Welsh wing Hopkin Maddocks was the star for London Welsh in the final match.

Now that Shane Williams has retired from Test matches, it would be interesting to see his strike-rate compared with others who have scored, say, 40-plus international tries.P Griffiths, Wales

There have been 13 players to date who have scored 40 or more tries in Test rugby.

Measuring strike rate as the average number of tries scored per ten Tests played places Shane Williams in sixth place, as follows:

Strike Rate Player Nation Tries Tests
11.90 Daisuke Ohata Japan 69 58
7.93 Christian Cullen New Zealand 46 58
7.90 Doug Howlett New Zealand 49 62
7.33 Jeff Wilson New Zealand 44 60
6.76 Joe Rokocoko New Zealand 46 68
6.59 Shane Williams Wales/ Lions 60 91
6.34 David Campese Australia 64 101
6.32 Hirotoki Onozawa Japan 43 68
5.49 Rory Underwood England/ Lions 50 91
5.41 Bryan Habana South Africa 40 74
5.13 Chris Latham Australia 40 78
3.98 Gareth Thomas Wales/ Lions 41 103
3.74 Brian O'Driscoll Ireland/ Lions 46 123

The figures for Williams, Underwood, Thomas and O'Driscoll include their performances in Tests for the Lions.

With England poised to make an interim coach announcement for the Six Nations, which other Home Unions have had interim coaches (ie excluding one-off match appointments)?Graham, England

Rob Andrew (P2 L2) in NZ in 2008 took interim charge of the England side when Martin Johnson succeeded Brian Ashton in 2008.

Dennis John (P2 W1 L1) was a caretaker coach for Wales in 1998 in southern Africa while the Welsh Rugby Union went in search of a successor for Kevin Bowring, who had succeeded an interim coach in 1995 when taking over from Alex Evans after the World Cup in South Africa. Evans's record with Wales was P4 W1 L3. His last match in charge was Wales's post-World Cup visit to South Africa for the first-ever Test match of the professional era.

Lynn Howells (P2 W2) was Wales's interim coach for their tour of Japan in 2001 when Graham Henry was coaching the Lions in Australia and Robin McBryde (P2 W2 in North America) similarly filled in for Warren Gatland in 2009 when the New Zealander was in South Africa with the Lions.

Scott Johnson was a caretaker coach for Wales (P3 D1 L2) in 2006 when Mike Ruddock left during the Six Nations.

Niall O'Donovan (P2 W2) stood in for Eddie O'Sullivan in Japan in 2005 when the Irish head coach was part of Sir Clive Woodward's coaching team with the Lions in New Zealand, while Michael Bradley (P2 L2) filled in for Ireland in New Zealand and Australia in 2008 between Eddie O'Sullivan and Declan Kidney.

Richie Dixon (P2 L2) stood in for Scotland in Australia in 1992 when Ian McGeechan was given a sabbatical.

Unions have also appointed temporary coaches to cover one-off Tests between appointments (such as Nigel Davies for Wales against South Africa in 2007). The list also excludes those who were appointed as interim coaches but subsequently had their contracts made permanent (such as Frank Hadden with Scotland in 2005).

Can you tell me Cecil Afrika's record in IRB Sevens matches?Danie Joubert, South Africa

Cecil Afrika has scored 599 points in IRB Sevens Grand Prix events. His total comprises 66 tries and 134 goals (mostly conversions) from the 17 events in which he has appeared (up to and including the 2011-12 season opening event in Australia).

He made his IRB Sevens debut for South Africa in Dubai in 2009.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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