In our look back into the history of Springbok and South African rugby we look at Springbok tour to the British Isles and France in 1906-07
By: Jacques Nortier
The first South African team to tour the British Isles and France occurred during 1906–07. The team played tests against all four Home Nations. England managed a draw, but Scotland was the only one of the Home unions to gain a victory. The trip instilled a sense of national pride among South Africans.
Coming only four years after the terrible Boer War which divided the country, the tour was responsible for uniting the ‘Afrikaaners’ and the ‘Colonials’ in one cause, the defeat of the British rugby teams.
The 1906-07 Springbok tour was a watershed in South African sport. It was during this tour that the term ‘Springboks’ was coined for a South African team and for the majority of the 100 years following the tour the Springboks have been the most feared side in Rugby Football. The Springbok emblem and the term ‘Springbok’ to denote a South African sportsperson all stem from this remarkable tour.
Coming only four years after the terrible Boer War which divided the country, the tour was responsible for uniting the ‘Afrikaaners’ and the ‘Colonials’ in one cause, the defeat of the British rugby teams. The 1906-07 tour firmly established the ‘Boks as the world leaders in rugby, they defeated Wales 11 – 0 at Swansea, less than a year after Wales had beaten the All Blacks.
Wales were in the middle of their first golden era and won triple crowns in 1905, 1908 and 1909 and this victory lifted the Springboks to the top of the world rankings. During the tour the Springboks played 29 matches winning 26, losing two with one match drawn. They scored 608 points with only 85 against.
Match 16 Springboks v Scotland at Hampden Park, Glasgow, lost 0 – 6
After the match at Hawick the South Africans journeyed to Glasgow where they were to meet the mighty Scotland. The heavily sodden ground was to be a telling factor in the Springboks first defeat of the tour. The Scots dominated the forward struggle while the South African backs waited patiently for a ball that was rarely to come their way.
Tries by Macleod and Purves gave the Scots a well deserved victory.
November 24th – Match 18 Springboks v Ireland at Belfast, won 15 – 12
One week after their first international the South Africans met the Irish international XV on the Balmoral Ground in Belfast. On a firm and fast ground the tourists overcame the host team by a narrow margin 15 – 12. Inspired by the play of captain Roos the ‘Boks led 12 – 3 at half time, the points coming from a penalty goal and three tries (Loubser 2, & Krige).
The tourists again applied the pressure early in the second half and they were unlucky not to increase their lead, the Irish defence proving a difficult nut to crack. The men of the Emerald Isle struck back with a penalty goal and two tries to draw level on points, the final word however, came from the South Africans as Stegmann crossed for the final score of the match.
December 1st – Match 20 Springboks v Wales at Swansea, won 11 – 0
As with the All Blacks a year earlier this was the big one, the ultimate test for the Springboks. Wales were in the middle of a golden era, a decade that saw them record 5 triple crowns (1900, 02, 05, 08, 09) but they had shown weakness losing their last international 11 – 6 to Ireland in Belfast.
The polished passing and fearless dash of the Springboks ensured that they won easily with 3 tries by Joubert, Loubser & Raaff with Joubert converting one.
The Springbok captain summed up the surprise of the tourists at such a victory “We had never hoped for such a win, We went on the field not knowing what the result would be, but determined to put up the best that was in us and leave the results to the gods”. The Springboks feat gained recognition from the home supporters who shouldered both Roos & Marsberg off the field.
December 8th – Match 21 Springboks v England at Crystal Palace, drew 3 – 3
Even though the Springbok’s had a week’s rest after the Welsh game, the side was still weakened by injuries, mostly in the backs. A soft, heavy ground would favour the English but despite this the tourists were first on the score sheet with a try by Millar.
Leading by three points at the turn around the Springboks were soon put at a disadvantage when they lost Douglas Morkel through injury. The home team equalised through a try by Brooks, the conversion by Cartwright sailed wide of the uprights.
The score remained at 3 points apiece and the South Africans ended their first ever test series abroad with two wins, one loss and a drawn game. It was to take 50 years before the Springboks were to find themselves second best in a test series (New Zealand 1956).
January 3rd – Match 29 Springboks v France at Paris, won 55 – 6
The Springboks travelled to Paris for the final encounter of the tour, there they outclassed the French team winning 55 points to 6. The Springboks scored 13 tries through Dobbin (3), Mare (2), Loubser (2), Martheze (2) Hirsch (2) Reid and Raaff. Mare converted 8 to give him a grand total of 22 points for the game.
The French replied with two tries through Purves and Jerome. Strangely this game has not been recognised by historians as an official international even though both the French and South African Rugby Unions agreed to the fixture.
1906 Springboks signed ball. A ‘Zug’ ball possibly manufactured in South Africa but certainly available for purchase in SA, see the Perrins & Burke, Port Elizabeth advert, where you can buy the ‘Zug’ for 15 shillings.
This advert is dated 1910. The signatures have faded on the ball and written on one of the panels is 1906 Springboks, this can only be seen at a certain angle and light, we can only make out the one autograph which is Stegmann, match balls at this time were normally autographed by both teams who had played in a match.
The bladder has been replaced in this ball. This ball is certainly a case for the conservationist. The photo of a signed ball is one of the 1906 tourists that was illustrated in Piggot’s book of the tour, see below, item number 5.
Wales v South Africa 1st Decemebr 1906 official programme
A ‘Taunton Park Gates’ postcard sent by Springbok full back Arthur Marsberg during the 1906/7 Springbok tour of Britain. The card, has been sent to Mr Hodges, c/o WN Cooper’s Chemist, West End, Kimberley, South Africa.
Kimberley was the home town of Marsberg. The message reads “Dear Mr Hodges, What do you think of your country now ? How is everybody getting on in the West End ? Man I cannot see what people want to leave such a nice country as this for, thanks for P.G.. Kind regards to HA – (signed) Marsberg.
The postcard is postmarked Taunton 19th October 1906. The Springboks arrived in Taunton on the morning of the 19th, they played Somerset a day later winning against the West Country men 14 – 0. This was the eighth match of the tour and the Springboks were still unbeaten. The card has also been postmarked West End, Kimberley, Nov 6th and Kimberley, Nov 7th.
This collection is only available for purchase or hire as part of our World Rugby Museum ‘Partner Programme’
Source: Rugbyrelics Museum