The great adventure began one exciting night in a Camps Bay Hotel near Cape Town. It was the night following the trails at Newlands. More than a hundred proved South African rugby players had gathered in hope of being selected.
The athmosphere was electric. Hopefuls walked around ashen-faced and nervous. There were cheers and sorrows as Frank Mellish announced the team. The biggest surprise was the selection of Basie Viviers as captain a desicion based on a number of political and provicialism issues that manifested during the trails.
Basie made quite an impression on Danie Craven one particular night during the 1952 tour when the whole team was down and low in energy. Basie was an entertainer and a confident speaker with a splendid singing voice; on that particular night he lifted the team spirit by engaging the team into some singing. Craven said after this incident in 1952: "What a man to have in any team. That chap could even captain a Springbok side".
Viviers had always shown leadership and good rugby ability. He played for Northern Transvaal, Orange Free State and Western Transvaal. In the season just before the tour he had been dropped from the provincial side, rather surprisingly. Craven had him invited to the trials and he apparently trained hard -running daily in the furrowed maize fields of the Western Transvaal- for months leading up to the trails.
Viviers had a excellent game in the final days of the trails and found himself not only selected for the team but also as captain probably as a result of the Salty du Randt/Jan Pickard incident that night after the final trails.
Generally, the announced team represented a fine blend of seasoned internationals and a number of exciting new prospects. There were two survivors from the 1949 test series namely Chris Koch and Salty du Randt, both tight forwards. Brain Pfaff, Johnny Buchler and 'Basie' Viviers had also played for provincial sides against the touring 1949 All Blacks.
Koch, du Randt, Buchler, Viviers, Paul Johnstone, Jaap Bekker, Jan Pickard, and 'Basie' van Wyk all went on the 51/52 EOYT to the UK. Ian Kirkpatrick, Bekker, du Randt, Koch, Pickard, Newton-Walker, and van Wyk played against the 1953 Wallabies in South Africa.
Roy Dryburg, Tom van Vollenhoven, Clive Ulyate, Tommy Gentles, 'Popeye' Strydom, Johan Claassen, Daan Retief, Wilf Rosenberg, Bertus van der Merwe, Dawie Ackerman, Theunis Briers (who would join the Springbok team as a replacement during the tour), Bekker, Koch, du Randt and van Wyk had played in the 1955 test series against the British Lions.
In total there were only 9 new tourists (players who had never been in a touring Springbok side) namely Jan du Preez, Pat Montini, Jeremy Nel, 'Peewee' Howe, Brain Pfaff, Piet du Tiot, Melt Hanekom, Chris de Nysschen and Chris de Wilzem. James Starke who arrived with Briers as a replacement half way through the tour was also a new tourist.
There was a lot of speed in the group with Tom van Vollenhoven the fastest man in the team having clocked a time of 9.7 seconds for the 100 yards and having cleared 25 feet in the long jump. Daan Retief -one of the flankers- started his rugby career as a wing while Dawie Ackermann -also one of the loosies in the team- ranked second only to van Vollenhoven as the fastest man in the team. The 20-year-old lock Chris de Nysschen was credited with a time of 10 seconds over the 100 yards.
Departure was delayed for one day due to fog. Below is some visuals taken at the airport on departure day.
Basie van Wyk having a last look at his first born who he thought will call him uncle (Oom) when he returns.
Daan Retief and his wife had a hard time saying goodbye at the airport. Some tender embraces with lots of crying by the missus who clearly was not happy about the prospect of three long months alone at home with hubby on tour.
Jeremy Nel signing for the female fans; look how intense the one in the background is staring at Nel. He was the Daniel Carter of the team. The girls raved about the man and Warwick Roger tells how he was swamped by females when the team arrived in Palmerston North for the 4th game of the tour. One female from Palmerston North apparently followed him around the country for the rest of the tour. In the background is Piet du Toit busy completing some official documents.
Bennett 'Peewee' Howe the centre/flyhalf from Border who was as a player of very similarmold as Jeremy Nel -robust, competitive and strong with ball in hand and good defender- here with some family members at the airport. He played as a seam bowler for the Border cricket team and was also a fine golfer.
Butch Lochner stepping into the aeroplane. Basie van Wyk, Tom van Vollenhoven (at this stage still the darling of SA rugby) are the two waving and Pat Montini and Clice Ulyate the two making up the rear.
Karel Tom van Vollenhoven was after the 1955 Lions series the 'darling' of SA rugby and the fans kept him busy as the team prepeared for departure. Things would change drastically on tour for 'Vollie" who struggled on the wet, muddy playing surfaces of New Zealand and when he change allienaces and signed-up with rugby league to play professional rugby for money he became 'persona non grata' in South Africa.
Team photo with signatures.
Springbok Captain Basie Viviers
Vice-Captain Salty du Rand