Ask John
Rookie Aussie front-rows, father/son Springboks and international footballing Lions
John Griffiths
June 21, 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 inexperienced Aussie front-rows, father/son Springboks, Lions who played international soccer and the 1987 South Sea Barbarians.

Do you know if Australia fielded their most inexperienced front-row ever when they played England in Perth? The starting front-row had only two caps between them. Mick, Australia

In 2006 Australia were similarly hard-up for front-rowers against England for the opening Test in Sydney. They started with two new caps - Tai McIsaac (hooker) and Rod Blake at tight-head - while loose-head Greg Holmes had had only one run-on Test before (but three actual caps by dint of two earlier appearances as a late-in-the-game front-row sub). Australia beat England 34-3 that day.

Tony Daly and Phil Kearns were new caps together against New Zealand in 1989 (Auckland) but had Andy McIntyre as an experienced tight-head. But Daly and Kearns had only played three times together (so 6 caps) when they were joined by new cap Ewen McKenzie against France in 1990 (Sydney). Fewer than 18 months later they were the ballast in the Wallabies' Rugby World Cup win against England in the 1991 final.

To find a less experienced Aussie Test front-row than the Perth trio (in terms of caps) you need to go back to the Test in Rovigo against Italy in 1983. Mark Harding (prop) and Mark McBain (hooker) were new caps while John Coolican, the other prop, had won only one cap before. Australia won 29-7.

Coolican had won his sole previous cap as part of an All-new-cap front-row for Australia against New Zealand at Christchurch in 1982 - Coolican, Bruce Malouf and McIntyre making their debuts in a 16-23 defeat.

Incidentally, the last time England fielded a "virgin" front-row in a Test was against Wales at Cardiff in the Arctic winter of 1963. Nick Drake-Lee, John Thorne & Bev Dovey were the new caps who laid the pack's foundation for a famous 13-6 win. The side led by Richard Sharp went on to win the Five Nations, a 0-0 draw in Dublin the only blemish on its copybook.

I understand from the commentary of last weekend's South Africa v France Test at Newlands that Flip van der Merwe completed the 11th father-son Springboks duo by making his debut off the bench - following in the footsteps of his father Flippie. Who are the others? Graham, England

The eleven pairs are:

Alf (1921-1924) and Harry (1953-56) WALKER
Cecil (1937) and Mike* (1969-70) JENNINGS
Felix (1949) and Morne (1971-80) DU PLESSIS**
Mauritz (1937) and Derek (1974-76) VAN DEN BERG
Louis (1958-62) and Uli (1986-94) SCHMIDT
Joggie (1971-72) and Joggie* (1996) VILJOEN
Moaner (1974-80) and Wikus (2003) VAN HEERDEN
Schalk (1984-86) and Schalk (2003-2010) BURGER
Gysie (1980-81) and Ruan (2006-10) PIENAAR
Hennie (1981) and Andries (2008-2009) BEKKER
Flippie (1981-89) and Flip (2010) VAN DER MERWE

* Mike Jennings toured with the 1969-70 Springboks to Britain and Ireland but never won Test honours. Joggie Viljoen toured Argentina, France & Wales with the 1996 Springboks but never won Test honours.

** The Du Plessis both captained SA in Tests.

All told there were five sons of Test-playing fathers who took part in the Newlands Test two weeks ago: Schalk Burger and Flip van der Merwe for South Africa and Aurélien Rougerie, Dimitri Yachvili and David Skrela for France.

Could you please tell me whether there have been two penalty tries awarded in a Test match prior to the recent Perth game between Australia and England? Charles Godbold, Australia

England were awarded two for the first time in their losing Test against Australia in Perth last weekend.

Before that only Wales of the 'Big Eight' nations had been awarded a brace of penalty tries in Tests: against Samoa at Cardiff during their 1999 Rugby World Cup pool match (which Samoa won 38-31) and against Canada in Cardiff in the 2008 autumn international.

Why was the human wall used by some attacking teams when they had a penalty near the try-line? What advantage did it create? Also why are teams no longer using this tactic any more in modern rugby? Anon, Australia

In 1975 the inventive Australian coach Daryl Haberecht devised the notorious "up-your-jumper" move at penalties. The team awarded the penalty formed an inverted V with their backs forming a wall to the opposition. A tap-penalty was taken and the ball was transferred across the V until one player tucked it up his jumper and the entire V scattered in different directions with hands hidden up the shirts.

Haberecht used it with Greg Cornelsen as his carrier. It brought his New South Wales Country XV a famous result against Sydney that year when Cornelsen ran 40 yards unchallenged to score the try which, when converted, brought a 22-20 win for the Country side. Cornelsen's only problem was that near the goal-line he nearly knocked the ball on unloading it from under his jersey.

England toured Australia that year and were on the receiving end of the move in their game with the NSW Country team at Goulburn. Another innovation of Haberecht's, incidentally, was the long cross-field kick to the wing - the so-called kick-pass perfected by England in the 2003 World Cup and now such a common feature of the game. Haberecht's side won 14-13.

The V was essentially a wall that acted as cover and confused defenders. The human wall you refer to for penalties on the five-metre line had the same aim - it gave the attacking side cover and an element of surprise. The IRB, however, ruled soon afterwards that wall-moves were an obstruction and that the "up-your-jumper" move in particular was against the spirit of the game.

I'm interested in the composition and fortunes of the 1987 South Sea Barbarians rebel tour to South Africa. Can you help? Gwyn Jones, England

The 1987 tour by the South Sea Barbarians was managed by the Fijian-born former All Black Arthur Jennings. The side played 13 matches, won ten, drew one and lost both "tests" (at Johannesburg and Durban) against the South African Barbarians, who included nine Springboks and were captained by Naas Botha. No tests were played against the Springboks.

The tourists scored 454 points, including 70 tries, and conceded 200 points.

v SE Transvaal/Natal Feeder XV - Won 31-6
v SARA - Won 46-11
v N Free State/Transvaal Feeder XV - Won 39-13
v W Transvaal/Bophuthatswana Feeder XV - Won 56-13
v E Province/Border/NE Cape Feeder XV - Won 60-0
v SW Districts/Boland Feeder XV - Won 40-0
v South African Federation (Proteas) - Drawn 25-25
v SW Africa/W Province/NW Cape Feeder XV - Won 28-7
v SA Invitation XV - Won 30-21
v SA Defence Force - Won 18-10
v SA Barbarians (1st "test") - Lost 30-56
v SA Feeder XV - Won 19-6
v SA Barbarians (2nd "test") - Lost 32-38

The playing squad was as follows:
A Anetelea (Western Samoa), P Batiniu (Western Samoa), T Cama (Fiji), T Ete'aki (Tonga), K Fa'amasuili (Western Samoa), F Finau (Fiji), R Hindson (Canada), A Hughes (Fiji), V Kakato (Tonga), S Koroduadua (Fiji), A Leu'u (Western Samoa), V Lilidamu (Fiji), S Mohi (Tonga), A Nadolo (Fiji), B Naivogo (Western Samoa), E Nautuki (Western Samoa), S Nautuki (Western Samoa), P Nawalu (Fiji), J Qoro (Fiji), E Rakai (Fiji), K Rakoroi (Fiji, captain), B Rara (Western Samoa), R Sailosi (Fiji), K Salusalu (Fiji), S Taufusi (Western Samoa), I Tawake (Fiji), E Teleni (Fiji), H Tupou (Tonga), S Vakatalai (Fiji).

Hindson, the only Canadian in the squad, and several of the Tongans and Fijians had taken part in the inaugural Rugby World Cup held earlier in the year.

The best match of the tour was the 25-25 draw against the South African Federation at Stellenbosch. The tourists led 16-4 at half-time but slipped behind 25-22 with a few minutes remaining. Severo Koroduadua, who had missed three earlier kicks at goal, landed a late penalty to level the scores.

Have any British & Irish Lions played international soccer? Anon

No British & Irish Lion has yet appeared in soccer World Cup Finals, but two former Lions won international soccer honours. Brian Price, the Wales and 1966 Lions lock in Australia and New Zealand, was an agile goalkeeper who, during his National Service, was called on to play an international for British North Borneo.

One of the original British tourists to Australia and New Zealand in 1888 was Dr John Smith of Edinburgh. He went officially as the team's medical man but played as a forward in eight of the tour games. He had been a forward for Scotland in ten soccer international matches between 1877 and 1884.


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