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Springbok & Tricolour - the First 10 Encounters

On Saturday at Stade de France, France and South Africa will meet for the 44th time in a Test match.


Of the 43 already played, South Africa’s have won 26, France 11 and six have been drawn.

The first time was in 1906 – an “unofficial” match.

A young man goes to Paris as every young ,must. The Springboks have been going to Paris for 112 years, not every year but as often as a tour would take them.

Paul Roos’s Springboks had played 28 matches on their tour of the UK and Ireland but they did not say No to a trip across to Paris.

The match was played at Parc de Prince, where the Springboks played their last match at the stadium in 1997 with a big, glorious victory.

The team of Frenchmen in 1906 was a combination of players from two Paris clubs, Stade Francis and Racing. The Springboks won easily, 55-6, 13 tries to two in days when a try counted three points. In his book on the tour Neville Piggott counts the match as an international, but clearly it was not.


The next Springbok trip to Europe was just before the Great War. Again the French match was the only match in France at the end of a 28-match tour and this time it was played in Bordeaux, where the wine comes from. Again the Springboks won well, 38-5, nine tries to one.

The forward Dougie Morkel also scored a penalty goal in strange circumstances. The referee penalised France some ten yards inside the South African half, South Africa’s idealistic captain, Billy Millar, thought the penalty unfair and told Morkel to kick to their fullback, Jean Caujolle, and let them play. A drop kick is more accurate than a punt and so Morkel kicked a drop to the fullback . The ball sailed over Caujolle’s head and over the crossbar for a penalty goal. Caujolle applauded as the ball flew over his head and Morkel’s boots ended up on a Bordeaux museum, so they say.

Nearly 40 years later, South Africa was in France again. This time they played four matches, including a Test at Stade Yves du Manoir in the Paris suburb of Colombes.The Springboks won 25-3, six tries to none. Danie Craven, who coached the team that he loved greatly, said that is was the best performance of the tour of 31 matches, a tour on which they had beaten Scotland 44-0.

It would be 25 years before South Africa beat France again.


The next contact was in South Africa in 1958, the first time France had played outside of Europe, the first time the team had blazers, the first time they were referred to as Tricolours and the first time they beat the Springboks. In fact they won the series 1-0 with one drawn, the first time South Africa had lost a home series in 62 years. France played 10 matches on the tour and won the series without scoring try. The Springboks scored two tries to nil and lost. The teams drew 3-all at Newlands and France won 9-5 at Ellis park.

Ten years later, France scored six tries to two in a two-match series and lost the series 2-0. South Africa won the first test in 1968 12-9, four Piet Visagie penalties to three tries, two by Benoît Dauga and one by Jean-Marie Bonal.

The French captain was the magnificent Lucien Mias, a medical doctor. On the Friday before the second Test, he had a heavy cold for which Dr Mias prescribed a bottle of rum. He drank all the rum and went marauding loudly along their hotel’s corridors. And on the Saturday, he was a hero, ending in tears in the changing room after the match, for he had been in the beaten team in Paris in 1952.

In 1961, it was back to Paris and Stade Yves du Manoir for the 34th match of the tour, a match notorious for the opening scrums.

France has the image of a land of lovers, a land more sensual than aggressive. Its rugby, it is believed, has flair and does the unexpected.

In 1961 in Paris, there was no flair, just premeditated violence. At the very first scrum, the French fired a salvo of fists and boots at the Springbok scrummagers. Martin Pelser, the tough, one-eyed flank had his good eye – the right one – attacked. His cheek was gashed, and, when the Springboks begged their skipper upright Avril Malan to give the signal for retaliation, he held them back. It happened again and again, and then Malan went to the little Welsh referee Gwynne Walters and told him that he would take his team off the field if this went on. After that rugby broke out. Doug Hopwood was close to scoring and Dave Stewart just missed with a drop, but the score ended 0-0.

When they met again in Springs in what was arguably the worst rugby Test ever played in South Africa, France won again – 8-6, the difference a conversion by Pierre Albaladéjo. The French try came when Michel Crauste tackled John Gainsford and Benoît Dauga picked up and gave to left wing Christian Darrouy who raced down the touchline and scored far out. Albaladéjo converted. It was a match France deserved to win as their forwards knocked the Springbok pack about.

The All Blacks were due in South Africa in 1967 but for the first time they turned down the invitation because Maori would not be allowed to tour. They played 13 matches, winning eight, drawing one and losing four. They played four Tests. The Springboks won the first two, France the third and the fourth was drawn.

The first Test in Durban was the first Test for one of South Africa’s finest rugby players – HO de Villiers, a fullback who ran with the ball, strong, fast and powerful, in days when a fullback’s job was to catch, kick and tackle. HO could do all of those things but it was at counterattack that he excelled – and thrilled. He changed fullback play.

One thing is certain France are worthy opponents and will be urged on by a huge crowd at that magnificent ground, Stade de France.

Results from 1913 to 2017

1913: South Africa won 38-5 at Stade Municipal, Bordeaux
1952: South Africa won 25-3 at Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes, Paris
1958: Draw 3-3 at Newlands
1958: France won 9-5 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1961: Draw 0-0 at Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes, Paris
1964: France won 6-8 at Springs
1967: South Africa won 26-3 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1967: South Africa won 16-3 at Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1967: France won 19-14 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1967: Draw 6-6 at Newlands
1968: South Africa won 16-11 at Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes, Paris
1968: South Africa won 12-9 at 4-1 Stade Municipal, Bordeaux
1971: South Africa won 22-9 at Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1971: Draw 8-8 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1974: South Africa won 13-4 at Stade Toulouse
1974: South Africa won 10-8 at Parc des Princes, Paris
1975: South Africa won 33-18 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1975: South Africa won 38-25 at Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1980: South Africa won 37-15 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1992: South Africa won 20-15 in Lyon
1992: France won 29-16 at Parc des Princes, Paris
1993: Draw 20-20 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1993: France won 17-18 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1995: South Africa won 19-15 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1996: South Africa won 13-12 at Parc des Princes, Paris
1996: South Africa won 22-12 at Stade Municipal, Bordeaux
1997: South Africa won 36-32 in Lyon
1997: South Africa won 52-10 at Parc des Princes, Paris
2001: France won 20-10 at Stade de France, Paris
2001: France won 32-23 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
2001: South Africa won 20-15 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2002: France won 30-10 at Marseille
2005: Draw 30-30 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2005: France won 26-20 at Stade de France, Paris
2005: South Africa won 27-13 at Boet Erasmus, Pt Elizabeth
2006: France won 36-26 at Newlands
2009: France won 20-13 at Stade Toulouse
2010: South Africa won 42-17 at Newlands
2013: South Africa won 19-10 at Stade de France, Paris
2017: South Africa won 18-17 at Stade de France, Paris
2017: South Africa won 35-12 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
2017: South Africa won 37-14 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2017: South Africa won 37-15 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban

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