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Players and Series against France

From left to right: Robbie Barnard; Piet Visagie; Johan Spies and Joggie Jansen

One of the brightest stints in the history of Springbok rugby was in 1970 and 1971. In 1970 South Africa of course won the 4 test series against Brain Lochore super All Black team at home. The 1971 international season started off with two tests at home against a French touring side. The Springboks won the first one on 12 June 1971 in Bloemfontein 22-9 and drew the second one 8 all on 19 June 1971 in Durban.

Springbok team for the first test on 12 June 1971 in Bloemfontein against the French side of 1971.  

The French side who played in this two test series.

This was a tough two test series as this French side won their 6 warm-up matches against provincial sides quite comprehensively (see touring record below).

Touring record of the French tourist of 1971





22 May 1971

Eastern Transvaal



26 May 1971

Western Transvaal



29 May 1971




31 May 1971


East London


5 June 1971

Western Province



8 June 1971

South West Africa



12 June 1971

First testsomae text



15 June 1971

North East Cape



19 June 1971

Second test



In the first test Gert Muller and Joggie Viljoen scored tries for South Africa. McCallum converted both and succeeded with three penalties. 

This picture shows Gert Muller hand-off Cantoni on his way to his try in the first test.

The first test is remembered for a famous tackle by Bourgarel on a charging Frik du Preez. If I remember correctly Frik was charging all cylinders firing down the touchline; on his way to what look like certain try. Bourgarel, however, had other plans the French wing came from the side fly tackling Frik; dumping him unceremoniously over the touchline to the disgust of the crowd (who even came-up with a chant for Bourgarel as a consequence). I won’t repeat the chant here but it rhymed with his name. 

Some of the stars of the 1971 touring French side 

 Benoit Dauga the French No8

 Jean Trillo the playmaker in the French backline

 Roland Betranne flyhalf

Jo Maso the best centre in the French side who was also some sort of a glamour boy.

French Captain Christian Carrère

The second test will be remembered for the violent and uncontrolled punch-ups. There were three incidents. The first one lasted for almost 1 minute after Claude Dourthe kicked Ian McCallum in the back while he was penned on the ground. The third punch-up resulted when Tommy Bedford was kicked in clear view of the pavilion below the belt.

The French more used to this sort of thing were able to return their minds to the game and played the ball while the Springboks were clearly disturbed by it and started playing the man for a significant part of the match. They were however able to pull themselves together for the last quarter of the match and succeeded in saving the match by forcing a draw with two significant heels against the head in their own 25 yards area.  

These pictures show the punch-ups against in the second test on 19 June 1971 against the French. The French dished it out and the Springboks were scattering around like headless cucks.

I believe these two tests against France played a big part in what was to follow later that year. It was intense matches and the Springboks had to dig deep in both tests. It was serious stuff as can be seen by the intensity by which the coaches are working with the players in the pictures below. This was taken in the run-up to the second test.  

Ian Kirkpatrick and Johan Claassen working with the players in preparation for the second test match against the 1971 touring French side.

From July to August 1971 the Springboks then travelled unbeaten through Australia playing 13 matches scoring 369 points (76 tries, 42 conversions, 4 dropgoals and 25 penalties) with the 13 Australian teams only able to score 102 points (11 tries, 3 conversions, one dropgoal and 20 penalties) against them. It was a remarkable achievement (an unbeaten tour) that took the Springboks 65 years (1906 to 1971) to accomplish and which no Springbok team were able to repeat ever since.  

1971 tour record

Matches played


Western Australia (Perth)


South Australia (Adelaide)


Victoria (Melbourne)


Sydney (Sydney)


New-South-Wales (Sydney)


New-South-Wales Counties (Orange)


Australia – first test (Sydney)


Australian Capital (Canberra)


Queensland (Brisbane)


Junior Wallabies (Brisbane)


Australia – second test (Brisbane)


Queensland Counties (Toowoomba)


Australia – third test (Sydney)


This was a time when everything seemed to get together for South African rugby; experienced coaches; a depth of experienced players and heaps of talented young players coming through. There were the veterans like Hannes Marais, Jan Ellis, Frik du Preez, Syd Nomis and Tommy Bedford who paid their school fees way back in 1965 touring Australia and New Zealand and who played against the 1970 All Blacks with the likes of Piet Visagie, Piet Greyling, Johan Spies, Ian McCallum, Albie Bates, Piston van Wyk, Robbie Barnard (mostly a reserve in 1970) and Joggie Jansen.  

Experienced players who were on 1965 Tour to New Zealand

Hannes Marais

Jan Ellis

Frik du Preez

Syd Nomis

Tommy Bedford

So there were at least five senior players in the squad who have toured to Australia before and who had a fair idea what to expect. In addition players like Piet Visagie, Dirk de Vos and Piet Greyling have also played against the Australians at home in 1969.

Other’s like Andy van der Watt, Tonie Roux, Gert Muller, Dirk de Vos, Robbie Barnard and Thys Lourens have been with the above mentioned players on the despairing 1967/70 end of year protestor’s tour to the United Kingdom. Twelve players thus in the team with first-hand experience of demonstrators; a significant core who knew how to react and who could calm and mentor the rookies.   

Players who went on the 69/70 demonstrators tour to the United Kingdom

Andy van der Watt

Dirk de Vos

Thys Lourens

Tonie Roux

Gert Muller

Piet Greyling

Exciting new talent like Hannes Viljoen, Joggie Viljoen, Martiens Louw, Theo Sauermann, Pieter Cronje, John Williams, Morné du Plessis and Dawie Snyman were starting their international rugby careers.  

Young talent coming through

Morné du Plessis

Joggie Viljoen

Martiens Louw

Theo Sauermann

Hannes Viljoen

Pieter Cronje

John Williams

Dawie Snyman

Some of these new comers like Hannes Viljoen, Morné du Plessis, Joggie Viljoen, Theo Sauermann and Pieter Cronje have played for their provincial teams against the 1970 All Blacks and in the two tests earlier the year against France.

Dawie Snymann was the big surprise and the baby of the team. He was included into the Springbok touring team before having played for Western Province.

Snyman apart it was a group of players who experienced the depth and despair of losing badly in 1965 and 1969/70 and the elevations and elations of victory in 1970. An experienced core who could keep the novices focussed if things go bad or on the humble path if things go well. It all culminated into a well balanced team with healthy competition in virtually every position. Strong and solid props in Theo Sauermann, Hannes Marais, and Martiens Louw; outstanding locks in John Williams, Frik du Preez and Johan Spies; two aggressive and abrasive hookers in Robbie Barnard and Piston van Wyk; pace, flair and crunchers in the loose trio with Jan Ellis, Piet Greyling, Thys Lourens, Morné du Plessis and Tommy Bedford (later replaced with Albie Bates); real pace on the wing in Syd Nomis, Gert Muller (later replaced with Andy van der Watt) and Hannes Viljoen; playmakers in the halfbacks with Joggie Viljoen, Dirk de Vos, Piet Visagie and Dawie Snyman; straight, strong runners who could tackle opponents into submission on centre in Joggie Jansen, Pieter Cronje, Peter Swanson and Tonie Roux (who also played fullback) and lastly placekickers of real calibre in Ian McCallum, Piet Visagie and Dawie Snyman. 

Peter Swanson the Transvaal center who toured with the 1971 team to Australia but who dissapeared from the rugby world stage afterwards. 

Ian McCallum scored 84 points on tour. 

Front from left to right: Frik du Preez; Piet Visagie; Tommy Bedford; Johan Claassen (Manager/coach); Hannes Marais (Capt); Flappie Lochner (Assistant manager/coach); Jan Ellis; Piet Greyling; Syd Nomis. Middle row: Robbie Barnard; Ian McCallum; Piston van Wyk; Tonie Roux; Morné du Plessis; John Williams; Johan Spies; Joggie Jansen; Gert Muller; Dirk de Vos. Back row: Joggie Viljoen; Pieter Swanson; Martiens Louw; Thys Lourens; Theo Sauermann; Pietr Cronje; Hannes Viljoen; Dawie Snyman. Inserts: Albie Bates (left top corner); Andy van der Watt (right top corner).

There was also the coaching of Johan Claassen a man who started his coaching career in 1968 and who have coached the springboks in 12 tests up to this stage having lost only 1 and drew twice. Flappie Lochner the assistant coach has been involved with 15 test teams and with only one loss (with one point). That was in short the construction of the first and only Springbok team in history able to complete a tour without losing a single match. There were teams that came pretty close to this like the 1906 and 1952 Springboks to the U.K but this was and still is the only ‘bok team able to accomplish this outstanding feat.

It was in fairness a short tour –only 13 matches. It was also not the first Springbok team that went unbeaten through Australia (the 1956 Springboks also didn’t lose one of its 6 matches in Australia). Granted also the fact that Australian rugby was pretty weak in 1971 but rugby in Australia had shown remarkable progress since 1956. In 1963 Australia won South Africa 9-5 at Newlands, Cape Town and two weeks later 11-9 in Johannesburg. The 1965 Springbok tourists lost both tests against Australia so winning Australia in test matches was no longer seen as a simple matter of turning up.

Political turmoil has blown over from the U.K and resistance against the Apartheid tour was intense when the Springboks arrived in Perth in June 1971. The Springboks was once again –like during the 69/70 EOYT to the U.K- confronted with fanatical demonstrators who had only one thing in mind namely to stop the tour. Bob Hawke president of the Australian union federation was threatening everyone only remotely involved with the tour. Airways that transport the Springboks won’t get any service and will be ‘black-banned’ meaning that they will get nothing delivered and workers of such institutions who lose their work will find it very hard to get another job. The Springboks left the airport under a chorus of protestor shouts like: ‘Sharpville, Sharpville, 69 dead’ and ‘Go home Springboks’ and anti-tour posters like ‘Would Jesus play for the Springboks’. The first match against Western Australian was played that very afternoon.  

Violent demonstrator activities during the tour

The Springboks also experienced some aggressive resistance on the field. In the second match in Adelaide a protestor or anti-tour-activist invaded the playing field and attacked John Williams. The police used horses to clear the field and some of the home team players even helped by tackling the pitch invaders.  

John Williams getting attached by a protester in Adelaide. 

 Policemen using horses to hunt down pitch invaders.

The matches were hard and both Tommy Bedford (broken cheek bone) and Gert Muller (broken nose) had to go home after the fourth match in Sydney. Their replacements were Albie Bates and Andy van der Watt.  

Bedford on the left and Gert Muller on the right who were send home after getting injured in the fourth match. Interestingly, Gert Muller had already scored 6 tries at this stage of the tour. They were replaced with Albie Bates and Andy van der Watt.

Some of the tour matches like the one in Orange and the test matches produced some hard tackling and punch-ups. 

This picture shows Thys Lourens, Dawie Snyman and Hannes Viljoen in action during the 6th tour match in Orange.

Hannes Viljoen (se top picture above) was the sensation of the tour and scored in virtually every match he played. He scored five tries in the first match of the tour and completed the tour with 16 tries behind his name. Other big try scorers were Jan Ellis (8), Andy van der Watt (7) and Joggie Jansen (5).

The ‘boks left some blood on the paddock but were equal to the challenge. In the third test Morné du Plessis dropped a cocky Bob McLean with left hook after McLean sneaked a punch on Piet Greyling’s opening his lip.  

Morné du Plessis felling a cocky Bob McLean with a left hook during the third test when the Aussies apparently decided to at least win the fight if they can’t win the series.

Jan Ellis and Piston van Wyk completed this third test match with bleeding cuts while others like Hannes Marais had to endure some head high tackles that would see the offenders yellow or red carded today. 

Hannes Marais getting high tackled in the third test.

The Springboks however remained calm and collective and did their talking on the field.

As can be heard th Gerhard Viviers commentary (see youtube clip in the next post on this tour) the Springboks played attractive running rugby.

Soon more about this historic tour.