Home Book Review Mythical, mystical and magical tests

Mythical, mystical and magical tests


One of the enduring Christmas traditions in our family is my brother buying me rugby books to add to my already-bulging library.

Writes Jamie Mackay for the Southland Times

This years offering was the superb Old Heroes _ The 1956 Springbok Tour & The Lives Beyond by Warwick Roger (first published in 1991 and reissued in 2006).

In an age where professionalism has made our national game unpalatable for many, its great to journey back to time when rugby was mythical, mystical and magical.

Although I wasn’t born, extensive reading leads me to unequivocally state the greatest test series of all-time happened more than half a century ago, when the country held its collective breath to see if we could beat the Springboks for the first time and become the first rugby-playing nation to do so.

Not being old enough to remember the JFK assassination did not prevent a life-long fascination, nor did it dilute my wonderment with the winter of 1956. My father raised me on stories of Kevin Skinner dealing to the dastardly Springbok props Jaapie Bekker and Chris Koch. To this day, my most treasured radio interview is the 20-minuter I conducted with Skinner on the subject.

And if I had a dollar for every time I’ve monopolised Robin Archer at a social function, picking his brain about the epic third test at Lancaster Park, I’d be retired playing golf now rather than eeking out an existence in the media.

Rogers book not only includes his boyhood reminisces but also those of countless others for whom the 1956 series was a watershed in their lives.

More importantly he went to great lengths from 1989 to1991 to track down the combatants in rugby’s greatest battle.

At that time, the surviving 22 (of 24) All Blacks used in the series were approached to tell their story.

Nearly all did, with the notable exception of the sometimes-tragic Don Clarke, who demanded payment. The mercurial Clarke, introduced into the All Blacks for the crucial third test, was one of the main architects behind the fall of the mighty foe.

It seems neither fullback in the series finale fared as well as they might off the paddock. The controversial selection and compromise-choice captain, South African fullback Basie Viviers, turned from teetotaler to the drink later in life with tragic results.

This book, written 16 years ago, certainly stands the test of time.

Sadly many of the leading characters in the pulsating plot have not. Lest we forget.


  1. Eish!
    I cut my rugby teeth on this series
    and the preceding 1955 Lions tour.
    Still remember the terrible feeling
    after losing the 4th test and the

    We had some newly-hatched chickens at
    the start of the tour, and they were
    all named after Springboks (rather aptly,
    but it only striked me afterwards :wink:)

    There is this famous pic of a bloodied
    and donnered Jaap Bekker after the third
    test. But I remember vaguely much later reading him saying it was mud, not blood.

    Basie Viviers was way past his best and a
    very unfortunate choice as captain – after
    the incident in which the favourite Salty du Rand broke Jan Pickard’s nose in a scrap.
    Salty did get to lead the Boks in one test

  2. British banknotes are issued by three note-issuing banks in Scotland and by four in Northern Ireland.

    These note issues, apart from small “authorised? issues, have to be backed pound for pound by Bank of England notes. Owing to the combined size of these issues – well over a billion pounds – it would be cumbersome for the Bank to hold ordinary Bank of England notes as cover. Instead, special one million pound notes are used. These notes are for internal use only and are never seen outside the Bank.

  3. The Zim $200 000 bearer notes will cease to be legal tender at midnight on December 31, although businesses can still bank them until close of banking on January 2.

  4. Gisteraand het ek rooiwyn gedrink,
    pot gerook en na sweet gestink
    Binnekort was ek in my moer,
    ‘n kat geskiet op die kakhuisvloer
    Daarna’t ek my meisie verneuk,
    haar hart saammet ‘n paar bottels gebreek
    Ek maak ‘n fout en met my groot verbaas
    sien ek hoe sy drie van my tyres afblaas

    Ag, dis lekker om dronk te wees
    Dronkwees is mos jonkwees
    Al weet jy more is jy babbelas
    Komaan barman, gooi nog ‘n glas

  5. Twee uur die oggend het ek ‘n meisie ontmoet
    Haar tieties was styf en haar lippies soet
    Geen mooier meisie het ek ooit gesien
    as my 2am beauty queen

    Ek het hard probeer om iets romanties te se
    Wou graag he sy moes by my kom le
    Maar my sweet talk was als verniet
    Nou sit en tjank ek van dronkverdiet

    My after 2am beauty queen
    Ag, ek wens ek kon jou weer sien
    Die ander dag kon ek nie glo wat ek sien
    Na 2 loop ek ‘n bloutjie met ‘n transvestiet

  6. A further update to that Boxing Day scorcher, apparently the BBC reported that Perth was the hottest place on earth on Boxing Day.


    The temperature in Perth, Western Australia reached 44.2°C (111°F) making it the hottest December day since records commenced, and the seventh hottest day ever recorded in Perth. This combined with the yesterday’s second hottest Christmas day of 40.7°C (105°F) and Monday’s 35.9°C (97°F) makes this the hottest three-day Christmas period since records began.

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