A forgotten milestone
April 23, 2010
The great Doug Hopwood made his Springbok bow against Scotland in 1960 © Getty Images
The Springboks v Scotland match played in Port Elizabeth 50 years ago next week has tended not to figure very largely in historical recall.
Within matches between the two it lacks the resonance of its immediate predecessor - the 44-0 shellacking handed out by the Boks in the 'lucky to get nil' match at Murrayfield in 1951. For South African rugby fans the stronger associations of 1960 are the All Black series that followed, with a victory to repay the loss in New Zealand four years earlier, the success of Avril Malan's touring team in Britain and the first serious stirrings of anti-apartheid proTestfollowing the Sharpeville massacre.
Yet if setting precedents that are followed is a measure of significance, it must be regarded as one of the most important of all international matches. Scotland's trip to South Africa, lasting only three matches including a single Test, was the first ever 'short tour'. It broke the previous assumption that if an international tour was worth doing at all, it was worth taking several months over it. The first visit by a single home nation to the southern hemisphere, it created the pattern that increasingly became the standard form for north-south competition.
A.C.Parker in his Springbok history (1970) attributes their invention to South African Board president Danie Craven, concerned that without international matches his top players might follow the path beaten by Tom van Vollenhoven and Wilf Rosenberg to lucrative rugby league contracts. The Scotland match was also seen as a useful tune-up for a Bok team that had no played in two years, since its historic series loss at home to the touring French.
It was also the first ever Test at Boet Erasmus, a venue that has over the years become a Springbok favourite, with a success rate there of more than 90 per cent in 16 matches. The 1974 British Lions, in a match remembered for two brilliant tries by J.J.Williams, are the only visitors to have departed victorious, their predecessors of 1968 the only other touring team to have escaped defeat.
The Springboks named 10 new caps, among whom lock Martiens Bekker was following older brothers Jaap and Dolf into the green jersey. Clan connections were, suitably enough for a match involving Scotland, something of a feature of both teams. Scottish fullback Robin Chisholm and lock Tom Grant both had younger brothers, David and Derrick respectively, who would follow them in international rugby, Springbok hooker Bertus van der Merwe was emulating his uncle Alfred and Scotland's captain Gordon Waddell was following in the footsteps of his father Herbert - by 1960 representing Scotland on the International Board - by leading his country from outside-half.
His counterpart as the coin was tossed before kick-off was another of the Springbok debutants Des van Jaarsveldt, a 31 year old Rhodesian who had been on the verge of selection for the best part of a decade, playing in the final trials for the 1951 and 1956 touring teams but missing out both teams. He has little doubt he was a victim of the dominance of South African rugby by the Afrikaaner Broderbond, years later telling Edward Griffiths: "I reckoned my face and language didn't fit".
Griffiths implies that his selection may have been Craven - never a broeder, but an operator within a system controlled by them - guiltily offering a consolation prize in a low-profile match. It made him the first Rhodesian, then part of the South African system, to lead the Springboks. Scotland, who had just finished a Five Nations season, named two new caps - Melrose back-rower Walter Hart and London Scottish centre Patrick Burnet.
Scotland began well with a try from Norman Bruce, a durable hooker who would go on to win 31 caps, then a Scottish record for the position. He and his props - Hugh McLeod and David Rollo, each of whom would go on to win 40 and jointly top Scotland's all-time list - more than held their own in the scrummages, while the lighter Scottish forwards proved quicker around the field.
What they could not do was contain Springbok scrum-half Mannetjies Gericke, also a debutant, whose breaks from close to the scrum produced three tries. The first two were scored by back rower Hennie van Zyl, with Gericke claiming the third himself. Their victory was sealed by van Jaarsveldt, picking up a loose ball near halfway and going all the way to the line himself, making experienced wing Arthur Smith's late try for Scotland merely a consolation in an 18-10 South African win. Parker was to recall it as a match that the Boks might have lost and 'far from convincing' as a rehearsal for the visit of the All Blacks.
For some it was an end as well as the beginning. Six of those new Boks, including both van Jaarsveldt and Gericke, played only that single test. So too did the two Scottish debutants. Nor was either fullback seen again, Michael Gerber playing the last of his three matches for South Africa while Robin Chisholm's 11 cap Test career was ended by the return of the brilliant Ken Scotland, who had been first choice since 1958 but was prevented from touring by studies at Cambridge University.
For others, though, it was a beginning to great international careers. Three of the new Boks were to be among their defining stars of the 1960s. Centre John Gainsford and wing Jannie Englebrecht would, like Rollo and McLeod, end their careers sharing the all-time record as their nation's most capped players. Each would win 33. No.8 Doug Hopwood would become one of the great back-rowers of the age, robbed of the captaincy only by broeder machinations.
For Waddell it proved even more of a beginning in a life that would to a great extent be shaped by South Africa. He returned with the Lions in 1962 and eventually settled in South Africa, becoming a significant figure in business and from 1974 to 1977 an MP for the opposition Progressive Federal Party before returning to Scotland in 1987.